Most people who take on the often difficult task of being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is not going to be easy. As the disease progresses, it can cause irrational behavior, and sometimes even violence. One California live-in caregiver was injured during a situation while caring for an aging senior with this disease and sued the homeowners for damages.
Lower courts ruled that the work this individual was doing was no different than workers in institutional settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, and that the caregiver understood the risks involved just as their counterparts in these other environments and therefore the patient is not liable, nor the homeowners if there is a difference.
According to a release published by Hanlon Niemann & Wright, entitled, California Court Blocks Home Health Aide’s Injury Claim: Frederick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright Issues a Warning to Families Providing Care to Loved Ones [w]ith Private Caregivers:
“In this case, the caregiver sued after her client, age 85, came up from behind her as she was washing dishes. In attempting to restrain her, the caregiver sliced her own hand with a large knife. The caregiver’s husband had been told that the aged client could be “combative and would bite, kick, scratch and flail.”
The caregiver, who worked for a home health care agency, sued the family for negligence and battery. The Superior Court Judge granted summary judgment against her, and was affirmed by an intermediate state appeals court.
The Supreme Court affirmed both lower court decisions, citing public policy changes in recent years that discourage institutionalizing the mentally disabled.”
Some claim that this decision was made more to protect the in home care industry and avoid the fallout that could have ensued should caregivers be entitled to sue for injuries sustained while on the job (and as part of the job). However, when supporting the physical needs of someone dealing with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, there is an increased risk of a variety of challenges, including physical aggression.
However, it’s important to understand this decision only applies to those caregivers who are formally trained and employed by agencies. It does not stipulate anything for independently hired caregivers. For those who seek to hire independently, apart from home care agencies, they could still be held liable for injuries sustained on the job and therefore they should either reconsider and hire through an agency to better protect themselves or contact their homeowner’s insurance company to increase their level of coverage.