Unexpected / Unexplained Deaths

“Nursing Home Patient Freezes to Death”

“Patient Chokes to Death as Facility Personnel Look On”

“Patient Dies From Lack of Oxygen – Nurses

Don’t Know How to Use O2 Tank”

These phrases should have made newspaper headlines, describing the terrible deaths suffered by three of our clients. Sadly, they were not. Unfortunately, most elder and dependent adult neglect goes undetected. In fact, in each of the above cases, family members were told by caregivers that their loved one had died from “natural causes.” Subsequent investigation by our attorneys established that they died because of the reckless neglect of facility personnel.

The unexplained death of an elderly or dependent adult in a long-term health care facility may be a sign of serious neglect or abuse. California law recognizes that every life – especially those of elders and dependent adults – has value. We are all entitled to receive at least the minimum level of care mandated by federal and state law. While money cannot replace what a family experiences when a loved one unexpectedly dies due to neglect or abuse, justice requires that facilities be held accountable under the law.

It is not always obvious that an elder or dependent adult died from neglect or abuse. Even the death certificate may not clearly indicate the underlying cause of death. Often, death certificates list only the final primary cause of death, such as kidney failure, cardiac failure, etc. This primary cause may be the direct result of a neglected underlying health issue which caused the patient’s kidneys to shut down or heart to stop. For example, the cause of death in a neglect case involving an infected bedsore, may be listed as renal failure or cardiac arrest. A review of all the medical records may prove that the kidneys failed because the nursing home staff failed to provide necessary care to prevent a bedsore from progressing to a stage 4, and becoming infected with C-Diff bacteria. Similarly, the death certificate of a person who died from malnutrition and/or dehydration will likely state that the cause of death was “cardiac arrest.” Many nursing home patients who die of “pneumonia” obtained this infection because they were repeatedly and negligently denied basic health services.

Accordingly, whenever a nursing home patient dies unexpectedly or under unexplained circumstances, it is important to investigate all underlying health issues. This is the only way to determine whether the death resulted due to the natural progression of advanced age, or whether it was the failure of caregivers to provide basic hygiene, health care or living assistance.

What can I do if my loved one unexpectedly died in a long-term care facility?

If your loved one has died unexpectedly in a long-term care facility, we offer you our sincerest condolences for your loss.  We would be honored to speak with you about your rights, and explain the options that are available.

Contact The Gebler Firm, PC for a free consultation.  We are available to speak with you by phone at 1-800-871-6998, or you may submit an on-line consultation request. We don’t charge any attorney fees unless we obtain a recovery.

We know this is a difficult time, but don’t delay.  The law limits the amount of time you have to pursue legal action.  In some cases, this can be as short as six months.

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Disclaimer:  The information on this site is for informational and educational purposes only.  None of the medical information is intended to be a substitute for professional medical judgment.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

Injured Elder