Lila Hazemann, 80, suffered from dementia and was living at the Lilac Homes, an assisted living facility in Moorhead, Minnesota. She had been there just two months when her daughter, Trish Olson, received an emergency call saying her mom had been rushed to the hospital for what was deemed a “pressure ulcer.”
When she arrived, she was stunned to learn from the surgeon that her mother had a very deep wound that had gone down to the bone. He also asked her how long she had known about the wound since it takes a considerable time to get that bad. The daughter replied she had just learned about it that morning.
Hazemann never left the hospital, dying there just before Christmas in 2016. The family is now suing Lilac Homes.
According to the CDC, pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bed sores, form when there is unrelieved pressure on the skin. It notes that pressure ulcers are serious medical conditions and indicative of clinical care quality in nursing homes and similar facilities.
The sores form most often on the skin covering the body’s bony areas, such as the hips, tailbone, ankles, and heels. Patients at greatest risk are those who have difficulty changing positions or spend the majority of their time in either a bed or chair, including a wheelchair.
There are four stages of pressure sores, and apparently, Hazemann suffered the worst type, at stage 4. At that point, her pressure ulcer should have exhibited pus draining from it, with an accompanying foul smell. Early treatment of a stage 1 sore, which is evidenced by skin tenderness or changes in skin texture or color, would have prevented the condition’s progression.
No Family Notification
Olson said Lilac Homes never notified her about her mom’s wound, which based on a report she received, showed they did know about it. The incident was reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (“MDOH”) by Lilac Homes, and after an investigation, the MDOH found no evidence of neglect.
However, the family appealed the ruling, and the MDOH agreed there was neglect involved months later. The family alleges their mother’s death is part of a larger issue of lack of oversight of nursing homes. The state agrees as the number of complaints received about nursing home neglect has increased substantially.
Newspaper Series Reveals the Extent of the Problem
Part of the increase in complaints is due to a series published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune on nursing home abuse and neglect. In 2016 alone, the MDOH received over 25,000 complaints of neglect, physical abuse, and thefts in state nursing homes. Only 3 percent were ever investigated.
The complaints include 2,025 allegations of abuse by staff, 4,100 reports of altercations between residents and 300 reports of drug theft. In the rare cases that were looked into by the MDOH, investigators often failed to interview the victim and did not notify the police. Resident on resident abuse, often severe, is the least likely to prompt an investigation.
Families say they are often not informed that an investigation is taking place, and some have said that if they report concerns to nursing home authorities, the result is generally an eviction threat. There are 85,000 Minnesota residents in such facilities, and the fact is that many of them do not have access to the criminal justice system. Some of the facilities, or staff members, are literally getting away with murder.
Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Sexual Assault?
If you or a family member are the victim of nursing home abuse or a sexual assault in a nursing home, visit our nursing home abuse and neglect page.
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