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NC Adult Care Homes: Personal Injury And Wrongful Death Law

Personal injury attorneys are often asked to represent clients whose loved ones have been injured at adult care facilities. These injuries may be the result of neglect or abuse and may even result in wrongful death. The clients are often surprised to find that they have no  chance of recovering damages. The chance of recovering personal injury or wrongful damages is dependent on the type of adult care facility. The following example from western North Carolina illustrates such a situation.

NC adult Care

Wrongful Death In Adult Care Home In Buncombe

In November 2004, a 68 year old U.S. military veteran was suffering from Alzheimer's. His family was concerned about his mental decline and his tendency to wander. The family attempted to take care of him at home, but found that they were unable to meet the huge demands of an Alzheimer's patient. The family searched the internet and found an adult care home, Mt Pisgah Family Care Home. This adult care facility is located in the Buncombe Country NC. The adult care facility assured the family that they would be able to care for the veteran. On November 3, 2004, the family drove the elderly man to his new home in the rural mountain countryside. Little did the family know that this would be the last time they would see him. Later that day, the adult care home allowed the elderly veteran, wearing only a light jacket, to walk on the property unsupervised; despite knowing he had Alzheimer's. The elderly veteran was never found.

As the people we love age and their needs increase, caring for them can be beyond our abilities. It is never an easy decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or care facility. It can also be confusing for families to choose the right facility for their loved one.

Types of NC Adult Care Facilities

NC licenses two basic types of adult care facilities. The first, and the one most people are familiar with, is the skilled nursing home. Nursing homes are healthcare facilities that provide nursing or convalescent care for its residents. A licensed physician must oversee the care of the patients, and registered nurses oversee the day to day operations of the facility. The buildings themselves must meet strict construction requirements with regard to patient access, on site emergency medical equipment, and "wandering" prevention. There are currently over 400 nursing homes in NC.

The second type of facility is the Adult Care Home (ACH). These facilities, and the smaller family care homes which house 2 to 6 residents, provide care for persons who do not require 24 hour supervision. The staff at adult care and family care homes are not required to have the training or skills that are required in a nursing home. There are over 1200 adult care homes in NC. Mt Pisgah Family Care Home in Buncombe County NC is an adult care home.

Family members may be drawn to an adult care homes for several reasons. First, the homes may purport to offer a more independent lifestyle for the loved one. Second, the smaller facility may seem more home-like. Third, these facilities tend to be less expensive. However, families should be very cautious before they select an adult care home.

Reasons Adult Care Homes May Be A Bad Choice

Because an adult care home is not required to have the same number of staff or training as nursing homes, its staff members can be unprepared to deal with medical emergencies. If a resident begins to choke, suffers a stroke, or has another life threatening emergency, ACH staff may not be able to properly assist.

Insufficient Staff In Adult Care Homes

In some adult care homes, like the smaller "family care home", only one staff member may be working at any given time. At night, this staff member is allowed to sleep. If the resident's needs require more supervision, it can be impossible for this one person to effectively supervise 6 persons at the same time. This lack of supervision can be deadly. In 2007, a family care home in Burlington, NC, allowed a woman suffering from Alzheimer's to wander around the premises. She was killed when a van backing out of the home's driveway failed to see her and crushed her.

Inadequate Staff Supervision In Adult Care Homes

Additionally, with only one staff member, staff supervision may be non-existent. As a result neglect, mismanaged care and abuse can be more likely to occur. In 2007 Cherry's Home Care, located in Buncombe County, was fined after a staff member physically abused residents. In 2008, at Mountain View Assisted Living (Henderson County), a staff member simply passed out medication to residents rather than having to bother with administering the drugs as required. One resident nearly died of an overdose.

Inadequate Alarm Devices In Adult Care Homes

Physically, the adult care homes may not have the required alarm equipment to care for certain residents. An adult care home is only required to have a door bell alarm to prevent residents from leaving the facility. Clearly, this "doorbell" is not adequate for confused elderly residents who may wander.

Adult Care Homes Organized To Avoid Regulations

Some adult care homes, in an effort to maximize profits while avoiding the scrutiny that a larger facility would garner, set up multiple "family home care" facilities so that they can house more residents with less oversight. Family home care facilities, which are limited to 6 residents, have the lowest level of regulations of the licensed facilities. Each building, even though they are owned and managed by the same person or company, is allowed to have less regulation because each building is its own "family care home". Richmond Hill Rest Home, located in Asheville, NC, is one such company and has at least 5 separate homes operating on the same property and managed by the same company/ individual. Coincidentally, Richmond Hill Rest Home has received multiple violation penalties from 2006 to 2011 from NC Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Adult Care Homes: Little Or No Liability Or Seizable Assets

Further, many of these adult care homes, in an effort to maximize profits, do not carry any liability insurance in the event that they harm or kill loved ones. Thus, once a tragedy occurs, the home plays the pauper rather than pay for the damage it causes. Even the real estate where the home is located may be owned by shell companies that effectively keep survivors from collecting judgments. After the damage is done, the home, which often has no property, simply liquefies and reopens, debt free, as a new corporation. The family, meanwhile, receives nothing.

Use Caution When Selecting An Adult Care Facility

Adult care homes are often for-profit business. The more residents the facility houses, the more money the home makes. Therefore, owners are motivated to encourage family members to place their loved ones in their homes. They are also motivated to cut costs whenever possible. Cost cutting may result in insufficient staffing or investment in staff training.

For these reasons, extreme caution should be used before placing a loved one in an adult care home. For more information about adult care homes in your area, and the violations cited by NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, visit

If your loved one has been injured or died as a result of neglect or abuse at an adult care facility, please contact the Ruth Smith Law firm. Our initial consultation is free and we are here to assist you.

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