After fall, resident sues Covenant Shores
By KATIE SCHMIDT
Mercer Island Reporter Intern
July 27, 2010 · Updated 9:41 AM
A resident of Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island has filed a legal complaint against the senior housing facility for its lack of response to her needs both during and after a fall in her home there. When Margaret Wallon fell on the night of Oct. 3, she was unable to get up and there was no response from the emergency pager system provided by the facility. Wallon needed care after the incident. According to her family and legal documents, Covenant Shores has refused to provide for additional care beyond what they have already provided immediately after the fall.
In a case that is to go before the Washington State Superior Court in November 2011, Wallon, 94, is suing Covenant Shores for the cost of her medical expenses that resulted from the incident and an additional amount, to be determined at trial, for pain and suffering.
Two of Wallon’s children, Deborah Buck and Peter Buck, said their mother had recently been to the hospital for feeling dizzy when she fell on the night of Oct. 3. They said they realized something was wrong when Deborah Buck tried to call her mother around 11 a.m. the next day and she didn’t answer the phone. Buck then called Wallon’s neighbor at the retirement home, who crawled through the garbage cupboard connecting their rooms and found Wallon on the floor, unable to reach the phone.
“She told me she was thinking, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to die here,’” said Deborah Buck of her mother.
Once discovered, Wallon was taken to the hospital for three days where she was treated for injuries from the incident. Buck said the medication that Wallon took thinned her skin, making her susceptible to bruises.
Deborah Buck said once her mother was released from the hospital, she went to rehab for about ten days, and had a 24-hour caregiver stay with her after that because she had a hard time sleeping and was frightened of being left alone.
The decision to sue, Buck said, came about when Covenant Shores stopped paying for the caregiver in December. The Covenant Shores Director, Anne Arakaki-Lock, said in an e-mail to the family that Wallon should consider moving from retirement housing to the assisted living facility if she wanted 24-hour care beyond that point.
“I have discussed this with our attorney and have been advised that we cannot accommodate your request for 24-hour care for your mother because she does not want to go to our assisted living facility,” said Arakaki-Lock in the e-mail to Wallon’s family.
A Covenant Shores spokesperson said Arakaki-Lock was not available to be interviewed.
“Covenant Shores chose to let its attorney say what it can and cannot do to take care of its residents,” said Peter Buck, an attorney. “This is how the problem was changed from an attempt to care for Mom to what will be a legal battle costly for all sides.”
Wallon said she was uneasy about going to assisted living at Covenant Shores.
John Hall, a spokesperson for Covenant Shores, said in a statement that the retirement home did not believe it or any of its employees were at fault.
“While Covenant Shores is sympathetic to this resident and her family, Covenant Shores does not believe it is responsible or liable for this unfortunate incident, nor is any individual employee,” Hall said. “Covenant Shores will vigorously defend itself against these claims.”
Deborah Buck said she thought there was a disconnect between what Covenant Shores suggested for her mother and what her mother’s needs were. She said she was upset because Arakaki-Lock had said she felt badly about the incident, but Covenant Shores had not told the Bucks what went wrong with the emergency pager.
“She didn’t indicate one way or the other whether she would ever tell me what went wrong,” said Buck of Arakaki-Lock. “That still really bothers me.”
Wallon said she knew she had activated the emergency system because she repeatedly pushed the call button, which she was wearing on a pendant around her neck.
Hall said he could not comment on what had prevented a response on the night of Oct. 3 because it was part of ongoing litigation.
Wallon said her experience at Covenant Shores had been good until her fall.
“I don’t want to pick on them too much,” she said. “I’ve lived there 14 years and I enjoyed most of it.”
Deborah Buck said her mother would move to a different home on First Hill. She said she did not know of any efforts on the part of Covenant Shores to change the emergency response system for other residents, though they did install a secondary call system for her mother after her fall.
She and Wallon said since the Wallon’s fall, they had heard of one other case where an emergency pager might not have worked at Covenant Shores in the past, though this had not been confirmed.
The King County Long Term Care Ombudsman, whose office keeps track of complaints filed against adult long-term care facilities, said she did not have any on file against Covenant Shores, and that overall the facility has a good record.