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California Nursing Home fined for Overmedicating Residents

Elder abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that the California Department of Public Health recently issued its most severe citation to a nursing home after a resident died from overmedication. The investigation was initiated when the resident’s blood-thinning medication levels were 18 times the normal dose.

The patient entered Lincoln Meadows Care Center in 2006 after he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Five years later, at the same nursing home, the patient fell from his wheelchair and hit his head, leaving him with significant bruising, although he was not immediately hospitalized. At the instance of his daughter, the resident was sent to the hospital four days later, where doctors found he had a subdural hematoma, which means blood vessels in his brain were ruptured, causing blood to leak and compress the brain tissue. The resident was on Coumadin, which is a blood-thinning medication that carries an increased risk of bleeding, particularly in the elderly.

Hospital tests also concluded that the resident was suffering from extremely low blood pressure, multiple organ failure, and toxic levels of Coumadin. Just a few days after his hospitalization, the resident died at a Roseville nursing home, where he was transferred for hospice care. Lincoln Meadows was ultimately fined $100,000 for overmedicating the resident, which is a Class AA violation. As stated, he had more than 18 times the normal Coumadin levels in his blood at the time of his hospitalization.

Class AA are the most serious violations, only issued with a resident death that can be directly and officially linked to the facility’s negligence. Fines can range from $25,000 to $100,000. Clearly, in this case, the state found Lincoln Meadows deserving of the highest possible fine.

In 2011, Lincoln Meadows was owned by Horizon West Healthcare, which one year earlier was ordered to pay nearly $30 million in connection to the death of another patient. One of Horizon West’s facilities, Colonial Healthcare of Auburn, CA, was found to be abusing residents in a trial stemming from the death of Frances Tanner in 2005. Tanner died due to complications arising from an infected bedsore.

Tanner suffered from dementia, and entered Colonial Healthcare in 2005. Seven months later, she fell and broke her hip, which rendered her largely immobile. During the trial, witnesses testified to the constant understaffing at the facility and inadequate medical documentation which contributed to the mistreatment of Tanner’s bedsores. The jury determined that Colonial’s behavior was fraudulent, malicious, and oppressive, and awarded Tanner’s family $29.1 million. Tanner’s was the fourth death that year linked to Colonial’s fraudulent practices.

Bedsores and overmedication are common effects of nursing home abuse and negligence. Bedsores, also referred to as pressure ulcers, can be caused by a number of factors, and can vary in severity. If a resident is ever hospitalized or passes away from an infected bedsore, however, it is clear that they have been abused or neglected in their facility. Residents who are largely immobile require consistent attention, to be shifted and turned throughout the day to avoid the development of pressure ulcers. Seniors are more susceptible to such injuries because their skin is often thinner and have poorer circulation. Bedsores are almost completely preventable, but healing becomes difficult if the sores are left untreated, after which they can become infected, and ultimately lead to death.

Nursing home residents also rely on staff to administer correct doses of medication at the prescribed times. Overmedicating or wrongfully medicating a resident can have disastrous and deadly consequences, and there is a distinct link between staffing levels and wrongful administration of prescriptions.

Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight these stories to help illuminate the reality of nursing home negligence. Residents who are abused or neglected and suffer serious injuries as a result have the right to a lawsuit against the nursing home and its parent companies. Unfortunately, many corporations like Horizon West have instances in which profits are prioritized over patients, and these facilities must be held accountable for the devastating effects patients suffer. If you or a loved one were injured by the negligence of an assisted living facility or caregiver, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.