Woman’s Suit Alleges Neglect by Senior Home

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Saturday, June 14, 2008; Page B02

An 83-year-old Montgomery County woman lay on the floor of her room for more than four days with a broken leg before she was discovered by workers at a Gaithersburg assisted living center, she alleges in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by Helen Friedman in Circuit Court last week accuses Sunrise at Montgomery Village of “negligence and abuse.” The Gaithersburg facility is owned by McLean-based Sunrise Senior Living.

“We have not received the lawsuit at this time, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further,” said Meghan Lublin, spokeswoman for Sunrise Senior Living. “Sunrise takes its commitment to quality senior care seriously. The health and safety of our residents is our number one priority. We will absolutely review these allegations.”

Wendy Kronmiller, director of Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality, said the agency is looking into the incident. It is not yet clear whether the incident would result in sanctions, she said.
Friedman had been in the independent living section of the facility since May 2006. According to the lawsuit, she fell on the morning of April 3, fractured her right tibia and was unable to move. The suit says she was on the floor for 4 1/2 days before she was found by employees.

An April 7 report by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel noted “suspected facility neglect/abuse.”

Friedman “was found to be in extreme pain, severely dehydrated, debilitated and humiliated as she laid there in her blood and body wastes for four and one half days,” the lawsuit says. “It’s a deplorable situation of abuse and neglect on persons who put their trust in institutions whose duty it is to protect them,” said Hubert M. Schlosberg, Friedman’s attorney.

Friedman was taken to the intensive care unit of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. She was later transferred to a nearby rehabilitation center where she currently lives.

Kronmiller said her agency is reviewing the case. Different standards of care might apply, depending on whether Friedman lived in the independent or the assisted living section of the facility, she said.

“If [assisted living regulations] don’t apply, then it means it’s not a state health department matter, but there are certainly other avenues for the family or the patient,” she said.

Among other allegations, the suit charges that Sunrise did not perform daily status checks in accordance with its rules. According to the Sunrise Senior Living Web site, daily status checks are among the services “generally provided for residents in independent living communities.”

Lublin confirmed that the Montgomery Village facility does offer this service but said that residents in independent living must request it. Schlosberg acknowledges that Friedman was in independent living but said Friedman’s children had been told their mother would be checked on daily.

The suit, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, asks for a judgment in excess of $30,000, plus interest and costs, and for “any other relief as this Honorable Court deems just and proper.”

Officials at Sunrise will have 20 days to respond to the allegations once they receive the suit, Schlosberg said.

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