88-year-old Lois Moreland, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease, passed away after being left in a tub for eight hours at St. Sophia Health & Rehabilitation Center in Florissant, Missouri, back in March 2016. Her son, Steven Moreland, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the St. Louis-based nursing home, stating the incident was a clear case of negligence. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and accuses the owners of putting money above the needs of patients.
Moreland alleged in the wrongful death suit that the 240-bed St. Sophia facility was deliberately being understaffed. The nursing home unit in which Lois lived had a nurse, two certified nursing assistants and a medication technician on duty to care for 35 residents the night Moreland died.
St. Sophia is run by Creve Couer-based Midwest Geriatric Management, which owns a total of 22 facilities in multiple states, including Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The St. Sophia location in particular had seen its fair share of problems. It was fined over $80,000 two years prior to the incident in 2014 after another resident with Alzheimer’s walked away from the home for more than two hours and was eventually picked up by police over a mile away. A fire also started in the laundry room of the building in 2016, just one month before the Moreland tragedy, and all residents had to be evacuated.
“When there are not enough staff members to care for residents, it creates an environment where employees are trying to do too many things that they forget about putting a resident in a bathtub and end up leaving her there for over eight hours,” said Moreland’s attorney, David Terry. He added the woman, given her mental condition, was “unable to comprehend her circumstances or fend for herself because there were not enough employees to meet the needs of each resident. And as a result, Lois Moreland paid the price.”
Lois Moreland moved into St. Sophia in March 2013. She was a stay-at-home mother for most of her life in the St. Louis area and had been married for 59 years. At St. Sophia, she was treated for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, dementia, heart disease, hypertension and muscle weakness. Lois had nicknamed the tub her “boat”. It was where she would often wash up before a staff member took her to bed. Typically, the baths would last no more than five to seven minutes with periodic check-ins.
After starting her bath around 8:30 p.m. on March 22, however, Moreland’s assistant never returned to retrieve her. At 4:30 a.m. the next day, the attendant remembered taking the woman to the bathroom, but it was too late. Lois’ dead body was found in the tub with the whirlpool jets circulating cool water. The nursing assistant responsible for the bath that night had recently been assigned to Moreland’s unit and was overwhelmed with the amount of additional responsibilities, according to reports.
A medical examiner cited the official reason for Lois’s death as natural causes with heart disease as a contributing factor. Steven believes, however, that although his mother suffered from a number of ailments, she would not have died that day if she hadn’t been left in the tub. An investigation found evidence supporting this belief, citing the assistant had a history of neglecting the needs of patients. Steven’s wrongful death lawsuit was filed on July 5th in St. Louis County Circuit Court.