Lack of medication leads to death of resident with dementia, lawsuit maintains

Share this content:

Staff members at a Florida senior living community failed to give medication to a resident with Alzheimer's disease for eight days, which ultimately led to her death, the woman's daughter maintains in a lawsuit.

Zorka Hufnagel, daughter of Ljubica Lazarevic, filed the legal action against Brookdale Senior Living last week, Hufnagel's attorney, Peter Sartes, told McKnight's Senior Living. The attorney did not refer to Lazarevic or Hufnagel by name, but they are named in an ABCActionNews.com article.

The lawsuit claims negligence, gross negligence and violation of parts of Florida's Patient's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities meant to guarantee that residents receive care in a dignified manner and are free from abuse and neglect, Sartes said.

Lazarevic, who was 95 at the time of her death in March 2016, was a resident at Brookdale Safety Harbor, formerly known as Horizon Bay, in Clearwater, FL. A Brookdale spokeswoman told McKnight's Senior Living that the company does not comment on pending or potential litigation.

Sartes said that events related to the lawsuit began in November 2015, when Lazarevic's physician decided to change her prescription for memantine (Namenda) to the extended-release version of the medication.

“The physician's assistant signs the prescription, the prescription goes to the facility, and the facility has it in the record, the chart,” he said. “At some point, apparently, the facility either forgets to order the medication or does not renew her prescription, and the medication stops coming in. And so they stop giving it to her because they don't have it.”

Medical records indicate that Lazarevic continued to receive all of her medications except the extended-release memantine. “Nobody does anything until the little old lady starts decompensating because … you can't just stop those [Alzheimer's drugs] cold turkey because severe neurosynaptic regression occurs,” Sartes said.

“To make a long story short, the 95-year-old lady starts doing weird things, meaning, like, there's a glass of water in front of her and she would reach to the right to pick up something that's in front of her,” he said. “She was losing her spaciality.”

Lazarevic died, the attorney said, because “there was just too much stress on her body to try to do all the things they were trying to do to get her to come back.”

The lesson for senior living communities, Sartes said: “Pay attention to what the hell you're doing, and pay attention to your people to make sure they're paying attention to what the hell they're doing, or someone is going to sue you.”

A trial date has not been set, he said.

Sign up for newsletters

In Focus

May 16

$3 million milestone

Parkville, FL 

Oak Crest recently passed the $3 million mark in the amount of scholarship funds the community has awarded to employees over the past 22 years.