Caregivers Unable to Sue for Injuries Sustained by an Alzheimer’s Patient

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior”. Alzheimer’s affects 5 million US citizens, which in turn, establishes the disease as the 6th leading cause of death in the country. Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure, prevention, or treatment. Although an overwhelming majority of the population suffer from the disease, caregivers and at home aids—whom are trained in proper care techniques of Dementia patients— are apprehensive when responsible for an Alzheimer’s patient. Severe behavioral changes, coupled with extreme disorientation, results in the hesitation of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.
The daunting task of being a caregiver has generated some tension between caregivers and their patients. The California Supreme Court issued a ruling that prohibited all paid caregivers from suing the patient and their loved ones for injuries sustained by the patient in question. The Los Angeles Times states, “In a 5-2 decision, the state’s highest court said employers have no liability as long as the caregiver was warned of the risks and the injury was caused by symptoms of the disease. Workers voluntarily assume the risk of violent injury in caring for patients with the brain disease”. Majority of caregivers are aware and informed of the potential negative backlash a patient may display to their caretakers. Although caregiving is wearisome and demanding, the rewards always outweigh the risks.
The Lawsuit was introduced to the court when a home caregiver was “bumped from behind” by an elderly Alzheimer’s patient. The caregiver sustained wrist injuries and has since lost sensation in two fingers. The Alzheimer’s patient and her husband have since passed away since the incident but the couple’s homeowner insurance has been “defending the case” and have subsequently won. California Supreme Court Justice Carole A. Corrigan explains, “If liability were imposed for caregiver injuries in private homes, but not in hospitals or nursing homes, the incentive for families to institutionalize Alzheimer’s sufferers would increase.”
Due to an Alzheimer’s patients’ capacity to be combative and react to situations with poor judgment, many long term care facilities feel it is imperative to administer antipsychotic medications to avoid such altercations as the at home caregiver. This method is grossly unnecessary due to the other interventions that can ease an Alzheimer’s patients temper and avoid an undeniable form of elder abuse that leaves many patients in a comatose state.
In effective Alzheimer’s care, it is essential to establish where the patient’s anger originated from; whether it is from the inability to be surrounded by other patient’s in a recreational setting or the incapability to sleep. Discovering the root of the problem will almost always reduce the anger. Moreover, a caregiver should never approach the patient with aggression or assertiveness. Although an unruly patient is stressful, speaking harshly or approaching the patient in a forceful manner will only lead to more agitation. If a patient is shown to have a moment of aggression, taking a passive and understanding approach will avoid any incidents from occurring.
Although caregiving is a challenging profession, your loved one should not be medicated to ease the caregivers’ stress and workload. The staff at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, an elite elder abuse and neglect firm, wills rigorously battle for the adequate treatment and care of skilled nursing facility residents. If you believe your loved one is a victim of abuse, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.