Fatal Oversight: Ohio Family Sues Cincinnati Nursing Home After Resident’s Death from Attack

Resident Killed By Staff At Three Rivers Healthcare

Dolores Niederhelman died 4 days after being violently attacked and both of her shoulders were broken by another resident. The nursing home did not send her to the hospital, and she declined over the following days until she was comatose–dying at the hospital shortly after she was finally sent. 

The physical assault was captured on the facility’s surveillance camera that was placed in Ms. Niederhelman’s room. The facility not only failed to properly examine Dolores following the brutal attack, but it also did not tell Dolores’ family members about what occurred. This ultimately led to a delayed diagnosis of injuries as none of her family members or subsequent healthcare providers were aware of the events that took place prior to her arriving at the hospital in the condition she was in. 

Michael Hill Trial Law is pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of Dolores Niederhelman’s family against Ohio-based nursing facility Three Rivers Healthcare Center located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Three Rivers Healthcare Center is part of the Communicare Family of Companies–which is one of the largest nursing home chains in Ohio and the United States.  

The case alleges negligence, wrongful death, and violations of nursing home resident rights laws. The lawsuit is Estate of Dolores L. Niederhelman v. Three Rivers Healthcare Center aka 3R Operating Co, LLC, et al. and is pending in Hamilton County, Ohio, Case No. A 2400404. 

The lawsuit states that Ms. Niederhelman became a resident of Three Rivers Healthcare Center on March 5, 2021. Dolores was admitted to the skilled nursing facility with a past medical history of Alzheimer’s dementia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hypothyroidism. On September 16, 2021, Ms. Niederhelman was placed in a secured unit for behaviors. She required placement in the secured unit because she was a vulnerable adult and her cognitive impairment prevented her from being independent.

Three Rivers Healthcare Center implemented a video monitoring system to protect residents in the secured unit as their cognitive disabilities are likely to lead to behaviors that pose harm to themselves and others like wandering, falling, assaulting other residents, and being assaulted by others. Ms. Niederhelman’s son agreed to and signed a consent form to give the facility permission to use the video monitoring system to protect his mother. The consent form included the following language, “If evidence of abuse is discovered, it will be reported following all legal and statutory requirements.”

The lawsuit states that just before midnight on January 26, 2023, the video monitoring system recorded the following events:

  • At 23:23:16 – Ms. Niederhelman was asleep in her bed with the lights off.
  • At 23:23:17 – A female resident carrying a purse enters Dolores’ room, turns the light on, and walks towards Ms. Niederhelman. The woman was fully dressed.
  • At 23:23:26 – The woman pulls the covers off Ms. Niederhelman.
  • At 23:23:33 – The woman grabs Ms. Niederhelman’s right lateral leg below the knee and pulls her legs off the bed (pictured below).

  • At 23:23:48 – Ms. Niederhelman was awake and holding onto the bed rail with her left hand. The woman walked towards Dolores while continuing to yell and point her finger at her (pictured below).

  • At 23:23:50 – The female resident grabs Ms. Niederhelman by the left hand. Ms. Niederhelman was awake and frightened as the woman leaned over her (pictured below).

  • At 23:23:55 – The woman forcefully grabs Ms. Niederhelman’s mouth to stop her from speaking and leans over her speaking in her face (pictured below).

  • At 23:24:07 – The woman violently grabs Ms. Niederhelman by the right hand and wrist. She repeatedly pulls her off the bed. Dolores held tightly onto the bed rail with her left hand to prevent being pulled to the floor (pictured below).

  • At 23:24:22 – The woman finally stops pulling Ms. Niederhelman’s right arm violently. Dolores was pulled to the floor with her head wedged between the bed rail and the bed itself (pictured below).

  • At 23:24:36 – After attempting to make the bed and throwing a book, the female resident stands over Ms. Niederhelman, who is still on the floor, and appears to yell at her.  
  • At 23:24:43 – The woman again vigorously grabbed Ms. Niederhelman’s right arm and pulled her using all of her weight. Dolores resisted (pictured below).

  • At 23:24:48 – The woman continued to pull Ms. Niederhelman by her right arm. She forcefully pulled her down and across the floor (pictured below).

  • At 23:24:55 – Ms. Niederhelman was left on the floor with her head up against the side of the bed. Dolores was rolling back and forth on the floor, distressed. The female resident proceeded to gather Dolores’ bed sheets.
  • At 23:25:50 – The woman finally left Dolores’ room. The lights were left on. Ms. Neiderhelman was on the floor with her head underneath the bed and her pajama pants halfway off her body. She continued to roll side to side on the floor (pictured below).

  • At 23:26:08 – The female resident walks back into Ms. Niederhelman’s room. Dolores was still lying on the floor. The woman tried to make Dolores’ bed again.
  • At 23:27:15 – Finally, Three Rivers Healthcare Center staff enters the room. Ms. Niederhelman was still on the floor and the woman was gathering her bed sheets.
  • At 23:27:33 – The Three Rivers Healthcare Center staff left the room. Dolores was left alone with the assailant, putting her at additional risk for significant harm. Ms. Niederhelman was left on the floor.
  • At 23:27:43 – Two Three Rivers Healthcare Center staff members walked into the room. 
  • At 23:28:00 – The two staff members grabbed Ms. Niederhelman by the arms, pulling her off the floor and back to the bed (pictured below). Other than rubbing the back of Ms. Niederhelman’s head and looking down at the back of her shirt, there was no cervical spine, musculoskeletal, or neurological assessment. The female resident remained in the room during this time.

The lawsuit states that this lifting of Ms. Niederhelman was an abusive violation of the standard of care and most likely worsened her shoulder fractures.

  • At 23:28:25 – One staff member grabbed Ms. Niederhelman under the right axilla and hoisted her back onto the bed (pictured below). The staff members covered Dolores with sheets. They did not pull her pajama pants back up to her waist. The bed was lowered.

The lawsuit asserts that the nurse’s post-fall assessment was negligent and abusive and that the standard of care required nursing staff to perform a thorough evaluation for trauma and fracture, call 911, and have her transported to the emergency department. It further states that the aggressive lifting of Ms. Niederhelman under the left shoulder and by the right arm more likely than not worsened Dolores’ bilateral shoulder fractures and caused further pain and suffering. 

  • At 23:29:31 – The two Three Rivers Healthcare Center staff members left Ms. Niederhelman in her room.

The lawsuit states that at 11:35PM, one of Three Rivers Healthcare Center’s nurses documented that she received a call that Ms. Niederhelman was on the floor and another resident was straightening her bedding. The documentation notes that Dolores was checked on with no complaints of pain and put back into bed. The nurse further documented a post-fall documentation note which included that no injuries occurred, the physician and family members were notified at 11:30PM and no complaints of pain were reported. 

In reality, however, Ms. Niederhelman’s son was not notified of the attack on January 26, 2023 at 11:30PM.. The lawsuit alleges that it is likely the nurse similarly did not contact the physician as a reasonable physician would have sent Ms. Niederhelman to the hospital if notified of the physical abuse that occurred. 

It wasn’t until January 27, 2023, that a Three Rivers Healthcare Center employee ordered bilateral shoulder x-rays for Dolores due to trauma and pain. The x-rays revealed that both of Ms. Niederhelman’s shoulders were fractured as a result of the attack.

The lawsuit details countless failures on the part of the facility and facility staff members, which ultimately led to her death. The failures include but are not limited to: 

  • Failing to contact Ms. Niederhelman’s family members until twelve hours after she was assaulted in her room. 
  • Characterizing the event as a non-urgent incident. 
  • Failing to accurately describe what happened to her family members.
  • Failing to accurately describe what happened to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Failing to inform her family members of her bilateral shoulder fractures.
  • Failing to complete a review of systems “due to dementia.”
  • Failing to examine the shoulders or arms.
  • Failing to review the shoulder x-rays.
  • Failing to review the video footage or act appropriately after reviewing the footage.
  • Failing to accurately and timely report the assault to authorities.
  • Failing to send Ms. Niederhelman to the hospital for a trauma evaluation
  • Failing to accurately document Ms. Niederhelman’s symptoms which showed she was in acute distress following the attack.

Eventually, Ms. Niederhelman was sent to the hospital after being comatose, having hypoxic respiratory failure with labored respirations, and breathing at 32 breaths per minute. The lawsuit states that the Three Rivers Healthcare staff failed to provide any medical treatment to Ms. Niederhelman and failed to communicate to one another about her healthcare information. It is outlined that the staff failed to provide Dolores with any treatment including supplemental oxygen despite having acute hypoxic respiratory failure and air hunger manifested by severe tachypnea and audible rhonchi.

Once she arrived at the hospital, it was communicated to the hospital staff that Ms. Niederhelman had a fall at the nursing home the night before. The physical assault and bilateral shoulder fractures were not reported to the hospital staff, which in turn made it more difficult for the hospital staff to properly evaluate Dolores and give her appropriate care. This led to additional harm. 

Ms. Niederhelman continued to decline due to the complications of the stress from the fractures, her immense physical pain, and her being bed bound resulting in the development and worsening of infections. 

It was confirmed at the hospital that Ms.Niederhelman had an infection with organ dysfunction consistent with sepsis. The manifestations of organ dysfunction included hypoxic respiratory failure, acute kidney injury, altered mental status/coma, and hypotension. 

Unfortunately, over the next three days, Ms. Niederhelman’s health status continued to decline. She died on January 30, 2023. 

The lawsuit claims, amongst other things, that Three Rivers Healthcare Center failed to provide proper care and treatment to Dolores Niederhelman, which they should have known she required. The lawsuit further claims that Three Rivers Healthcare Center was chronically and systematically understaffed and points to publicly available records from Medicare demonstrating that the facility was below average in staffing for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and aides. 

“Our firm is deeply committed to seeking justice for the family of Dolores Niederhelman. The nursing home’s failure to protect its residents and their subsequent mishandling of the situation, from not evaluating the victim after the attack to misleading the family about the nature of her injuries, is utterly unacceptable. This kind of negligence not only violates the trust families place in these facilities but also endangers the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society. We will continue to pursue accountability for these egregious actions to ensure something like this does not happen again,” says trial attorney Michael Hill.

Who is Three Rivers Healthcare Center?

The Three Rivers Healthcare Center is a part of the Communicare chain. There are numerous Communicare-owned nursing home facilities located throughout the State of Ohio. 

Addison Healthcare Center8055 Addison Road SE, Masury, OH 44438Grande Pointe Healthcare Center3 Merit Drive, Richmond Heights, OH 44143
Advanced Healthcare Center955 Garden Lake Parkway, Toledo, OH 43614Greenbriar Healthcare Center8064 South Avenue #1, Boardman, OH 44512
Advanced Specialty Hospitals of Toledo1015 Garden Lake Parkway, Toledo, OH 43614Greenbrier Health Center6455 Pearl Road, Parma Heights, OH 44130
Allen View Healthcare Center2615 Derr Road, Springfield, OH 45503Hanover Healthcare Center435 Avis Avenue NW, Massillon, OH 44646
Austintown Healthcare Center650 S Meridian Road, Youngstown, OH 44509Ivy Woods Healthcare Center2025 Wyoming Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45205
Berea Alzheimer’s Care Center49 Sheldon Road, Berea, OH 44017Kenwood Healthcare Center7450 Keller Road, Cincinnati, OH 45243
BridgePort Healthcare Center2125 Royce Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662Lake Pointe Health Center3364 Kolbe Road, Lorain, OH 44053
Brookside Healthcare Center315 Lilienthal Street, Cincinnati, OH 45204Madeira Healthcare Center7885 Camargo Road, Madeira, OH 45243
Burlington House Healthcare Center2222 Springdale Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231Northwestern Healthcare Center570 N Rocky River Drive, Berea, OH 44017
Canfield Healthcare Center2958 Canfield Road, Youngstown, OH 44511Parkview Healthcare Center3875 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
Chamberlin Healthcare Center3889 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236Pebble Creek Healthcare Center670 Jarvis Road, Akron, OH 44319
Chardon Healthcare Center620 Water Street, Chardon, OH 44024Pleasant Ridge Healthcare Center5501 Verulam Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45213
Clifton Healthcare Center4301 Clime Road N, Columbus, OH 43228Riverside Healthcare Center1390 King Tree Drive, Dayton, OH 45405
Copley Health Center155 Heritage Woods Drive, Copley, OH 44321Salem North Healthcare Center250 Continental Drive, Salem, OH 44460
Crestwood Care Center225 W Main Street, Shelby, OH 44875Salem West Healthcare Center2511 Bentley Drive, Salem, OH 44460
Dixon Healthcare Center135 Reichart Avenue, Wintersville, OH 43952Southbrook Healthcare Center2299 S. Yellow Springs Street, Springfield, OH 45506
Evergreen Healthcare Center924 Charlies Way, Montpelier, OH 43543The Colony Healthcare Center563 Colony Park Drive, Tallmadge, OH 44273
Falling Water Healthcare Center18840 Falling Water Road, Strongsville, OH 44136The Pines Healthcare Center3015 17th Street NW, Canton, OH 44708
Forest Hills Healthcare Center8700 Moran Road, Cincinnati, OH 45244Wood Glen Alzheimer’s Community3800 Summit Glen Road, Dayton, OH 45449
Grande Lake Healthcare Center1209 Indiana Avenue, St. Marys, OH 45885Wyant Woods Healthcare Center200 Wyant Road, Akron, OH 44313

Questions About a Potential Lawsuit Involving Three Rivers Healthcare Center, Communicare, or Another Facility? 

Michael Hill is a nationally recognized attorney who exclusively  handles cases against long term care facilities. Michael and his firm, Michael Hill Trial Law, handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases across the country. If you have any questions about cases involving Three Rivers Healthcare, Communicare, or any other nursing home, assisted living facility, or group home, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at www.protectseniors.com, by sending an email to info@protectseniors.com, or by calling (800) 659-2712.