Tragic Death of Professional Football Player Focuses Attention on Assisted-Living Facilities


September 10, 2013

A new documentary focuses attention on the potential risk to elderly loved ones suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in assisted-living facilities.  The documentary entitled “Life and Death in Assisted Living” provides a frightening perspective on the danger of falls, wandering and other accidents when these facilities are not adequately staffed.  While the focus of the documentary involves the death of a George McAfee, a former professional football player, his story is only one of many accounts of serious injury or wrongful death that occur in understaffed assisted-living facilities.

According to the documentary, the Hall of Fame running back wandered into a restroom where he accessed an unlocked storage cabinet and drank industrial cleaning chemicals.  McAfee, who suffered from dementia, experienced caustic burning of his lungs and esophagus before passing away.  When McAfee was located after he ingested the industrial cleanser, his lips had become black while his face resembled a “horror show death mask” according to his daughter who lives in Stone Mountain, GA.   “I cannot begin to tell you how horrific it was.  We just hope he wasn’t conscious,” the daughter told ABCNews.com.

The assisted-care facility where McAfee resided was owned by Emeritus Corporation, which is reportedly one of the largest providers of assisted-living care facilities in the U.S.  The company is publicly traded and generates a reported $1.6 billion per year in revenue according to the film.  The lawsuit against Emeritus included reports that for a half an hour there was no one on duty in the wing of the facility where McAfee obtained access to the cleaning chemicals.  Emeritus settled the wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount with McAfee's family.  The CEO and President of Emeritus Granger Cobb indicates during the film that there was a “failure on our part” because a staff member failed to lock the cabinet that contained the toxic chemicals.

While assisted-living facilities often offer “memory units” that are designed to give those with impaired memory but minimal medical needs more of a home-like environment than they receive in a skilled nursing facility, assisted-care facilities are not closely supervised by the government.  Because nursing homes receive federal funds, they are more closely monitored and regulated than assisted-living homes.

The documentary maker reviewed pending lawsuits and government complaints against such facilities in a range of states.  The key causes of injury and wrongful death were linked to policies that prioritized profit over the quality of patient care.  These policies included inadequate staffing and minimal training and supervision of staff.  One assisted-living staff member who was interviewed indicated that his training consisted of a single training session that lasted a few hours, which discussed how to converse and feed the residents.  These staffing issues are exacerbated by a high burn out rate and low industry pay.

The film examines numerous incidents of serious neglect and abuse of those in assisted-living facilities that include sexual assaults by staff, violent attacks by other residents and patients who wander away.  One incident reported in the documentary involved an Alzheimer’s patient who wandered away from an assisted-care facility and was never found.

At Montlick and Associates, our experienced elder care abuse attorneys are passionate advocates for seniors who have been neglected or abused.  If your aging loved one has suffered mistreatment in a nursing home, skilled nursing facility or even their own home by a caregiver, they may be entitled to financial compensation.  Our Georgia elder abuse attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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