The death of an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease has prompted her son to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. He alleges his mother was forgotten in her bath, where she was found the next morning.
According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the woman’s routine had involved taking a nightly soak in a whirlpool bath she dubbed her “boat,” where she would wash herself before being helped to bed by a nursing aid. The woman reportedly started her bath one evening in March 2016, but her help never returned. Hours later, shortly before 5 a.m., a nursing assistant suddenly recalled she had taken the woman to the shower room but had not returned to get her. The woman’s body was discovered there in a tub of cold water, the jets of the whirlpool still on full blast.
Her son alleges the nursing home was negligent in causing his mother to suffer and die, specifically by under-staffing its nursing home, which is home to 240 people.
An attorney for plaintiff was quoted as saying that when there aren’t enough staffers to provide care for residents, it results in a situation where employees have too many responsibilities and lose track of a resident for an entire eight hours. The resident, who was in her 80s, was unable to comprehend the circumstances, nor was she able to help herself. There were not enough employees available to meet the needs of each resident.
The nursing home is owned and operated by a for-profit company that owns 22 other facilities in a total of four states. This same facility was recently fined more than $80,000 in connection with another resident with Alzheimer’s disease who wandered away from the facility and was gone for more than two hours before he was discovered by police roughly a mile away. Then, just a month before the bath tub death. residents had to be temporarily evacuated from the facility after there was a laundry room fire, which ultimately resulted in injury to one of the employees.
An investigative report conducted by the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services found that in the most recent incident, the woman was typically left on her own for anywhere from five to seven minutes, with periodic checks occurring until she was finished in the tub. However, staffers were distracted when another resident across the hall fell. the assistant later told investigators that she was “very busy,” and forgot to return to check on decedent. When the assistant remembered the woman in the bathroom, she reportedly cried, “Oh my God!” and ran toward the shower room, where decedent’s body was discovered. The pull cord the woman might have used to call for help was behind her on the wall, out of her reach.
The nursing assistant on duty that night had reportedly only been on that unit for a few days, but had a prior reported history of neglect of residents, according to the CMS report. One reported case involved this same assistant telling a resident she wasn’t “going to feel sorry” for him after he fell from a chair when she had “been telling you to sit down all evening.” She was also suspended for another incident involving leaving a resident in the shower room alone. The resident slipped and fell after assistant stepped out to get more towels.
Decedent’s doctor had recorded in her chart that it was unsafe to leave her alone in a bathtub for a period of any longer than 30 minutes, due to her declining physical and mental health. Her psychiatrist noted an even shorter interval – no longer than five to 10 minutes.
Inspectors fined the facility $40,000 for the incident, and required additional training. Of course, as our nursing home negligence lawyers know, that won’t bring this woman back. Her son is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
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Florissant nursing home patient with Alzheimer’s dies after being left in tub for 8 hours, lawsuit claims, July 16, 2017, By Joel Currier and Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Injuries, June 28, 2017, Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog