Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Woman Neglected and Illegally Evicted by Alameda Residential Care Facility; Facility Retaliates Against Her for Whistleblowing

Alameda, Calif. — Ila Dicks, a 77-year-old woman suffering from dementia, was admitted to Oakmont of Mariner Point for 24-hour care in October 2015. It’s alleged that since she became a resident, she suffered avoidable falls, was unnecessarily chemically restrained, suffered dental damage and other severe injuries. When Dicks’ family refused to chemically restrain her, they were sent an unlawful notice of eviction and were also allegedly retaliated against for blowing the whistle about her substandard care. The California Department of Social Services cited the facility for illegally evicting Dicks as well as issuing numerous other citations for providing substandard care to residents.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Oakmont of Mariner Point for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“As a residential care facility, facility staff knew that they were not capable of or legally allowed to care for someone with Ila’s medical conditions. Still, they allowed her into the facility knowing she required a greater level of care than they could provide,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “The facility surely appears to be motivated by profits over its residents welfare, so they knowingly exposed this vulnerable senior to health and safety risks. The facility’s rampant regulatory violations, which led to Ila’s injuries, are well-documented in deficiencies issued by the State of California’s Department of Health Services. Further, social service officials found that her eviction attempt violated state law and only then did the facility rescind the eviction, which was reported on in a 2017 story by CNN.”

Allegations and Background

Dicks was admitted to Oakmont of Mariner Point on October 6, 2015. It is alleged that the facility was fully aware of her medical conditions upon her admittance, through her medical records and from her family that she was dependent upon a walker and was normally in a wheelchair due to a previous fall. It is also alleged the facility knew that in addition to her advanced age and infirmities, Dicks needed protective care and supervision because of dementia. She was chronically disoriented and forgetful.

Oakmont of Mariner Point is a residential care facility for the elderly. Residential care facilities for the elderly are an intermediate step between independent living and skilled nursing homes. They do not provide medical care and treatment. Instead, these facilities provide varying levels and intensities of non-medical care and services and are intended to be a “humane approach to meeting the housing and social service needs for older persons” by providing a homelike environment.

The lawsuit alleges that the facility unlawfully accepted Dicks as a resident event though it knew that she had a health condition that prohibited her from residing at a residential care facility. By accepting her as a resident at the facility, the assumed responsibility for her care and supervision. By virtue of being understaffed and poorly run, the facility failed to provide Dicks with the basic services and supervision she needed and, as a result, Dicks suffered multiple unreported falls, which the facility allegedly concealed.

In October 2016, the facility threatened to and did evict Dicks because her family did not agree to start her on the antipsychotic drug Nuedexta. The facility’s use of Nuedexta and Ila’s eviction was so flagrant, that it was covered in a news report by CNN.

Nuedexta is used to treat people with a disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying, known as pseudobulbar affect or PBA, including those with neurological conditions such as dementia. PBA is extremely rare in dementia patients. It is alleged that doctors in nursing homes misdiagnose PBA to justify using the drug to treat patients whose conditions make them difficult to manage. Nuedexta is known for increasing the risk of death in dementia patients. It is alleged the facility chemically restrained Dicks with administrations of Neudexta.

On November 17, 2017, the California Department of Social Services cited the facility for illegally evicting Dicks. In response, the facility administrator promised to rescind the eviction notice.

It is alleged that upon the directive of the facility owners and operators, facility staff continued to retaliate and promote a hostile environment against Dicks and her son for their whistleblowing behavior since the DSS citation. This unlawful behavior included overcharging Dicks by increasing her basic services fees and ignoring the complaints from her son about the substandard care she was receiving. The substandard care included withholding basic hygiene and legally mandated assessments of her condition.

In January 2018, Dicks suffered another fall at the facility. It was reported that she fell from her wheelchair and that she laid on the ground for more than 30 minutes before being transported to a hospital without notifying her son. This was not the first time she had been transferred to a hospital and her son not told until receiving a bill for the ambulance service.

On February 16, 2018, the DSS issued a citation against facility staff for crushing Dicks’ medication without consent or authorization. On April 9, the agency issued another citation for failing to conduct the necessary reassessments and reappraisals of Dicks.

On April 20, 2018, the DSS issued yet another citation for unlawful business practices and hostile conduct following the events in response to the whistleblowing by Dicks’ and her son.

On or about June 2018, Dicks’ son discovered that his mother had extensive dental damage due to the wrongful withholding of basic hygiene by facility staff, the lawsuit alleges. She now requires surgery and implants. By this time, Dicks had also experienced other reportable changes to her condition that were not brought to the attention of her son. For example, a leg rash had developed on her leg, which resulted in the rash being untreated and unresolved for more than six months.

Dicks is still a resident of the facility. Unfortunately, the wrongful withholding of care continues to this day.