Sep 13, 2017

Aged Care Lawsuit: America’s Biggest Care Provider Sued for Poor Quality of Care

Quality of care is the cornerstone of any aged care service. Not only in Australia, but around the world too.

Brookdale Senior Living, the largest aged care provider in the US, recently has a class-action lawsuit filed against them in California for poor care of their residents at a number of their facilities.

It was reported that, in a single day, twenty residents at a facility in Palm Springs missed their medication due to understaffing.

At another facility in Paso Robles, an elderly woman pushed her emergency button after a fall and was left to wait for 22 hours before a staff member responded to her. The woman had broken bones and other sustained injuries.

In the class-action lawsuit, there were complaints of inadequate staffing, lack of staff training and increase in fees are part of a “callous and profit-driven approach”.

It claims that residents were “left without assistance for hours after falling, they are given the wrong medications, they are denied clean clothing, showers, and nutritious food, and they are left in their own waste for long periods of time.”

The organisation is based in Tennessee and operates 1,121 facilities which cares for more than 100,000 resident across 47 states. This isn’t the first lawsuit they have had filed against them with similar complaints made against them in other parts of the country.

In another class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year in Florida, it was alleged that the aged care provider did not adequately staff their facilities and was not providing the care it promised to its residents.

In the Florida lawsuit, one resident claimed the Brookdale home where she lived had assured her she would get personal care services based on an assessment of her individual needs.

But as her needs grew over time, the level of care she received did not increase. However she alleged that during that time, the provider nearly tripled her fees, she alleges.

Brookdale typically charges monthly room and board fees, plus separate charges for additional care, such as help with medications – this is the standard practice for American aged care providers.

Brookdale’s average monthly rate for assisted living, including rent, food and some personal care services, is about $5,000AUD, according to the company’s website.

In Australia, to ensure that things do no escalate so far that lawsuits are needed to resolve issues, a complaints scheme is put in place help older Australians should you not be able to resolve your issues directly with the aged care service.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner is an independent service dedicated to resolving issues in government funded aged care services. They are a resource that can be utilised when direct feedback to the aged care provider leads to no resolution.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb, has stated in the past that her office had received 4500 complaints in the past years.

For an industry where 1.3 million people are receiving care, this is a relatively small number of complaints. However, Ms Lamb suspects that there are still many more complaints that are not reaching her office.

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