Investigator Exclusive: Family sues when mom dies after undisclosed fall at nursing home

4:31 AM, Feb 1, 2011   |    comments
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"We feel betrayed," John Flynn said, about the treatment his mother, Gladys Feran, received at Larchwood Village Retirement Community on Rocky River Drive.

"Why wouldn't they ask (our) family to meet with her and her caretakers to help us understand what we could do to prevent the falls?"

Saber Healthcare, the chain that runs Larchwood Village, said that, due to confidentiality laws, it could not comment on the specific care at issue in the the family's lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.  

"Our nursing staff is committed to providing quality care," the statement noted. "There are two sides to all personal injury cases and we will present our evidence to the court as the case develops." 

Fatalities from falls are all too common for those living in nursing homes.

While just five percent of the population over 65 lives in nursing homes, they account for 20 percent of the fatalities from falling down.

In all, more than 1,800 nursing home residents die from fall-related injuries each year.

Nursing homes are making strides at reducing the number of falls through technological improvements, but studies show that just about one in five falls may be preventable, Dr. Evelyn Duffy, associate director of the Center on Aging and Health at Case Western Reserve University, says.

"The people that live in nursing homes are the most frail and the most vulnerable population of people," Duffy said. "They have a lot of chronic illnesses that put them at more risk of falling."

The attorney representing Feran's family says it's not just the number of falls Feran had, but the nursing home's failure to tell the family about them that's so shocking.

"It's a practice that they follow, which is when something bad happens... to write as little as possible so that they can then avoid liability," said David Krause, an attorney with the firm Seaman Garson.

The state cited Larchwood Village for not documenting a 2008 fall that resulted in Feran being rushed to the hospital for a broken hip and collar bone. Her son said Feran was pushing another resident in a wheelchair through a door when she fell.

It wasn't the first time Feran had fallen while pushing a wheelchair.

Just months earlier, Feran was pushing a wheelchair when her knees began to buckle, according to transcript of a nurse's deposition that was taken as part of the lawsuit. Luckily, nearby staff caught her mid-fall.

"Why would they be allowed to push another resident?" said Flynn. "It doesn't make sense."

Feran's last fall happened in April 2009, when she fell while trying to turn off her television, according to court records. A nurse checked her out, put Feran back on a couch and later called Feran's daughter about the fall, the records note.

The family denies that happened. "We didn't even know she fell," said Flynn.

After five days of constant pain and increasing confusion, Feran was taken to the hospital, where they discovered a fractured pelvis.

Two weeks later, Feran died from a lung infection. The coroner ruled her broken pelvis contributed to Feran's death.

"If the family didn't request an autopsy, we'd probably never know that mom had a broken pelvis," said Flynn.

WKYC-TV

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