Lawsuit Filed: Alzheimer’s Patient Wanders from Long Beach Nursing Facility; Suffers Severe Injuries Requiring Hospitalization

Long Beach, Calif. — Billy Smith, an 80-year-old man, was admitted to Santa Fe Convalescent Hospital because he posed a high risk for elopements due to a myriad of physical and mental conditions, including Alzheimer’s dementia with behavioral disturbances, a history of strokes, poor safety awareness and a propensity to wander. As a result, Smith required assistance with performing activities of daily living, as well as special care and supervision to prevent him from dangerously eloping. On December 2, 2017, Smith eloped from the facility unsupervised and without staff knowledge. Unaware of any formal search procedure to manage the crisis, facility staff summoned police officers and searchers after they were unable to locate Smith. After a significant delay, Smith was finally found by paramedics on a sidewalk blocks away from the facility, filthy and severely injured his lip was bleeding, both eyes severely bruised, a large chip of his front tooth broken, his neck, legs and arms covered with scratches, and he was unable to walk or talk. Due to the entirely preventable elopement, Smith required transfer to four different hospitals for extensive medical treatments.

Garcia, Artigliere& Medby filed a lawsuit against Santa Fe Convalescent Hospital for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“Billy was placed in Santa Fe Convalescent Hospital’s care specifically to prevent wandering; however, it’s clear based on his elopement and resulting horrific injuries, the facility failed to employ an adequate number of qualified personnel to carry out all of the necessary functions to keep its residents safe,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “The facility was well aware that such understaffing and deficiencies would lead to patient injury and in fact, the facility has regularly been issued deficiencies by the State of California’s Department of Public Health for its sub-standard provision of care to patients. By making the facility take responsibility for its deliberate negligence, we hope to prevent further patient injuries and ensure the facility complies with applicable rules, laws and regulations.”

Allegations and Background

Upon Smith’s admission to the facility, it’s alleged the facility was well aware, through assessment information, family information, as well as physician notes and orders provided to the facility, that Smith was an ambulatory dementia resident with poor safety awareness, and behaviors and propensities to wander unsafely while unsupervised and unassisted. Therefore, he required special care and assistance, including 24-hour supervision and monitoring, assistance and monitoring with ambulation and transferring, the provision of safety and assistance devices to prevent accidents, assistance and monitoring with other activities of daily living, and the implementation of interventions to prevent and promptly manage elopement crisis.

Despite the full knowledge that the failure to create and implement proper care plans to prevent Smith from suffering further falls and elopements, the facility simply ignored Smith’s needs, failing to protect his health and safety, and failing to comply with the rules, laws and regulations governing the facility.

The lawsuit states that the injuries suffered by Smith while a resident of the facility, were the result of the facility’s plan to cut costs at the expense of its residents. Integral to this plan was the practice and pattern of staffing the facility with an insufficient number of service personnel, many of whom were not properly trained or qualified to care for the elders and/or dependent adults whose lives were entrusted to them. Further, the “understaffing” and “lack of training” plan was designed as a mechanism to reduce labor costs and predictably and foreseeably resulted in the abuse and neglect of many residents of the facility, including Smith.