He left looking like ‘prisoner of war’ and later died. Sons sue Lakewood nursing home

The family of a man who died after he allegedly lost 50 pounds during several months at a Lakewood nursing and rehabilitation facility has sued.

Robert Fishbaugh was 72 when he died at a hospital last year, following his stay at the Oaks at Lakewood.

His family argues poor care at the Oaks led to his death.

The facility also had other complaints about patient care last year, including a woman who said she lost her foot due to poor care there.

Attorneys representing the facility did not respond to News Tribune messages seeking comment about the Fishbaugh family’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

The complaint, filed May 7 in Pierce County Superior Court, gives this account:

Fishbaugh was released to the Oaks Feb. 19, 2018 for physical therapy and rehabilitation after about 11 days of hospital treatment for dehydration, bleeding in his upper gastrointestinal tract and low levels of sodium in his blood.

The care plan created for him noted that he was at risk for weight loss and falls, because of dementia. He suffered six falls at the Oaks in the next few months.

It was May 11, 2018 that a friend visited Fishbaugh at the facility. She thought he looked emaciated and worried he was being neglected. He looked like “a prisoner of war camp victim,” she said.

She convinced the facility to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

He’d lost about 50 pounds at The Oaks and was suffering from severe dehydration, muscle wasting and a urinary tract infection, among other conditions. He wasn’t speaking and had pressure ulcers on his heels from his time in bed.

He died at the hospital Sept. 28, 2018.

“As a result of the lack of care provided at Oaks, Mr. Fishbaugh developed a severe blood infection, dehydration, malnutrition, muscle wasting, muscle contractures with rigidity and failure to thrive,” the lawsuit reads. “Physically, Mr. Fishbaugh was never able to recover sufficiently from the infection and malnutrition to return home to his apartment.”

The state Department of Social and Health Services did an assessment of the Oaks facility less than two weeks before Fishbaugh arrived there.

The agency found violations, such as that the facility failing to properly report and investigate some allegations of abuse or neglect. Some patients suffered a loss of dignity, such as a long wait for bathroom help. The investigation also noted trouble with post-surgical care that caused one patient to lose her foot.

That woman sued the Oaks in October. Her case awaits trial.

Fishbaugh’s lawsuit says another DSHS investigation, in October, found the facility had trouble with nutrition care for some patients, storing food in sanitary conditions and making sure it hadn’t expired and reporting suspected abuse and neglect in a timely manner.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.