An elder neglect referral by Cuyahoga County Adult Protective Services led a Shaker Heights woman to file a lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Deborah Zaccaro Hoffman, an attorney who works in litigation management in Cleveland, filed the lawsuit April 30 after receiving the referral of elder neglect April 24 when her mother, Juliana Zaccaro, was at Cleveland Clinic’s South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights.

Hoffman filed the lawsuit on counts of defamation; intentional and/or reckless infliction of emotional distress; battery; violation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and negligent hiring, training and supervision.

Zaccaro was taken to the hospital April 18 after falling on her way to the bathroom, Hoffman told the Cleveland Jewish News. The following day, Hoffman was told Zaccaro, who lives with Hoffman, had broken her left shoulder and was being evaluated to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility. That was the last contact she had with the hospital before Passover started. Hoffman spent Passover at a relative’s house in University Heights and noticed she received a call from the hospital some time during the day on April 19. After calling the hospital, Hoffman told the CJN the hospital asked Hoffman to bring in Zaccaro’s medication, which Hoffman did not have at the time.

She questioned the nurses to determine if it was an emergency and would she need to break her Passover observance. After some back-and-forth, she drove her car to her home, where the medicine was and took it to the hospital. She then drove her car to Beachwood and, after determining any emergency was over, walked 2 miles back to her relative’s house. The whole trip took about four to five hours. 

It wasn’t a question of whether Hoffman would bring the medicine, she would have brought it in two days later. To her, it seemed like the hospital staff either didn’t understand the holiday or didn’t care about it.       

The referral came April 24 when the hospital was going to send Zaccaro home. According to the lawsuit, the hospital claimed it called multiple times, but Hoffman claims she only received one call about her mother April 24. Hoffman was unable to answer that call and minutes later, received the referral. 

“The next thing I know, I get this elder abuse referral,” said Hoffman, who attends Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood. “It was frankly bizarre, and it was bizarre that they had been calling me all day, because I had been sitting right next to my phone and nothing came in. ... I checked my phone records from T-Mobile and there was nothing there, either.”

Earlier the same day, Hoffman was in talks with a friend of Zaccaro who was trying to find a facility for Zaccaro to go to instead of going to Hoffman’s home. Hoffman said she thought her mother needed to be in a nursing facility because she felt she couldn’t take care of her mother while working and taking care of her children. 

When contacted by the CJN, Angela Smith, director of corporate communications for Cleveland Clinic, said, “We are currently not commenting further due to patient privacy.”

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