Former Chicago Bears Running Back, George McAfee, is most known for his celebrated professional football career. George was drafted in the first round by the Bears. In his eight seasons in Chicago, George was a four time NFL Champion and was named the NFL punt return champion, landing him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966. Following the end of his celebrated career, George unfortunately entered the national spotlight again more than thirty years later for an entire different reason.
In a case that garnered national attention, George's family settled out of court with Emeritus Corporation after George drank industrial strength cleaning detergent while left unsupervised in an assisted living facility and died ten days later. George's death drew national attention to the world of for-profit assisted living facilities and shed light on the potential dangers of placing a loved one in a loosely regulated facility.
In the years prior to his death, George suffered from dementia. Because he was not in poor physical health, his family jumped on the opportunity for George to reside at Cypress Gardens, an Emeritus assisted living facility in Atlanta, Georgia for a fee of $4,000 per month. Despite the cost, his family was happy to have him in a home-like environment, which was a stark contrast to the sterile feel of most nursing homes.
George's situation is becoming more common, in that there is a growing population of elderly individuals who are in good physical shape but suffer from memory issues including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. As such, "memory units" are becoming increasingly popular in profit-based assisted living facilities for the exact reasons that George McAfee's family chose Cypress Gardens, in that they provide a transitory step for elderly residents who need assistance but who do not require full time skilled nursing care.
Unfortunately, many families choosing assisted living facilities are not aware that they are often for-profit facilities that do not receive federal funding and are therefore not subject to federal regulations. In addition, workers receive minimum wage, get limited training, and are often subject to inadequate staffing ratios. These issues appear to have factored into George McAfee's death, as facility records revealed that the wing where George found and consumed the cleaning fluid was unstaffed for a half an hour and the cabinet containing the fluid was left unlocked, contrary to protocol.
Looking back, George McAfee's daughter Mary Jeanne Stouffer wishes they would have done their "homework" before picking a facility but admitted that it didn't cross their mind to need to double check the reputation of the facility . In addition Stouffer advised that adult children need to advocate for their parents.
There are certainly several lessons to be learned from George McAfee's tragic death. At Keating Law Offices, we routinely advocate on behalf of clients who have been seriously injured or even died as a result of negligent care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. As George McAfee's family suggests, it is very important to thoroughly research a long term care facility's record before selecting a facility for a loved one.If you have a question about this post, or any other issue related to Illinois Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Law, please contact Mike Keating at Keating Law Offices by calling 312-208-7702 or emailing MKeating@