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Lawsuit alleges dead rat found in dementia patient's mouth


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Staffing was so inadequate at a California senior center that a rat crawled into an Alzheimer's patient's mouth and died there before staff noticed, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of 90-year-old Sigmund Bock, alleges that administrators at the Paragon Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Mission Viejo overbooked their facility to receive corporate bonuses, but cut back on staff to increase profits. It seeks unspecified punitive damages and attorney and court fees.

"The facility so literally ignored the needs of their residents ... as to allow vermin in the form of a rat to become lodged in the mouth of Sigmund Bock and die therein," the lawsuit alleges.

Melody Chatelle, a spokeswoman for Sunwest Management Inc., the Oregon-based company that operates Paragon, said the allegations were false.

Chatelle said instead that Bock was found holding a glue trap that had been placed in his room by a pest control company to catch a single field mouse. She said the dead field mouse was inside the trap when Bock picked it up.

"We take care of our residents, and find this negative publicity to be a disheartening affront to our professional caregivers and most especially to our residents and their loved ones," she said.

Bock's attorney, Stephen Garcia, challenged that account. He said two traps were placed in Bock's room and both were laced with poison, not glue.

He said Paragon records show a staff person noticed Bock "playing with a rat in his room and eating candy ... with the rat" on the morning of March 18. A short time later, Garcia said, paramedics called to the scene noted "possible ingestion of rat poison" in their report and an emergency room file says that Bock was "found in room in care facility with dead rat in mouth."

"I guess we're all just making this up because they're so wonderful," Garcia said of Paragon Gardens. "I know I'd want to put my dad there — but only if I hated him."

Bock is now being treated in the psychiatric care unit at another facility, Garcia said.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of troubles for Paragon Gardens.

Last year, 71-year-old dementia patient Troy Nelms wandered from Paragon and was never found. He is presumed dead and his family has sued the facility.

Also last year, the state Department of Social Services sued to revoke Paragon's community care license, alleging that six clients were injured and one died after improper care there.

The state also is trying to revoke the licenses of two administrators at Paragon and bar several employees of Sunwest Management from having contact with a licensed care facility in California, said Michael Weston, a spokesman for the agency.

The company has appealed and a hearing date is set for April 25.

The state is also investigating Bock's case after receiving an anonymous report on March 23, Weston said.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n.../n134827D23.DTL

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I suppose I'm expected to comment on this.

What the nursing home claims about the patient sound entirely possible. I've seen dementia patients do stranger things. I don't think they should have had poison in a dementia patients room though...

I'm not sure what it's like in California, but I know here it can be very difficult to get the minimum required number of nursing staff. There simply aren't enough qualified people, and many of the ones who are like to call in sick every other day because they know they won't be fired.

Nursing home neglect and abuse, while it does happen, is mostly blown out of proportion.

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