A 98-year-old woman reportedly died a painful death after extended exposure to the Florida sun at the West Palm Beach nursing home where she resided. According to a nursing home neglect lawsuit filed by her granddaughter recently, the woman had been left unattended for an undetermined period of time. She had worked her whole life laboring in fields, picking vegetables in the Sunshine State. But in her frail state, her skin blistered in the sun as her body temperature rose. By the time she was discovered and rushed to a nearby hospital, she was unresponsive, her internal temperature was 103.2 degrees. She was suffering from severe hydration, heat stroke and second-degree burns covered her mouth, arms, and shoulders.
An investigation with the Department of Children and Families determined the woman had been inadequately supervised. The county medical examiner in Palm Beach opined she’d died due to hyperthermia, resulting from heat and sun exposure. However to date, nursing home abuse lawyers can find no evidence the facility or its staffers have been held accountable through typical channels. DCF’s investigation is closed (without reaching a finding as to the length of time decedent was exposed to the elements unsupervised), but that of the West Palm Beach police is still active. The state’s nursing home regulator, Agency for Health Care Administration, didn’t respond to the Palm Beach Post’s request for comment or insight.
The nursing home and granddaughter paint two very different pictures of the woman’s abilities and mental state. The home’s executive director stated that although the woman did use a wheelchair, she was able to get in and out of the facility on her own. The director also suggested it may have been possible, given the woman’s health history, that paramedics provided her en route to the hospital with a medication to which she suffered an allergic reaction.
Decedent’s granddaughter, however, explained her grandmother was 98, suffering from advance-stage dementia and suffered a range of physical limitations and infirmities preventing her from being able to care for or protect herself. She was reportedly non-verbal and required full assistance with daily life activities.
How Do You Know if a Nursing Home Burn is Neglect/ Negligence?
Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to protect residents from a preventable illness or condition like sunburn or heat stroke. West Palm Beach nursing home abuse lawyers know it’s imperative to be on-guard is especially important here in Florida, where temperatures can quickly soar and the sun can be blistering. Those who are elderly and ill may be vulnerable as it is. Exposure to Florida’s summer heat and sun with no shade, sunscreen, water or cool air can be as dangerous as allowing a nursing home patient out in the dead of winter without a coat.
Heat stroke was also primarily what led to the deaths of a dozen residents of a Hollywood, FL nursing home after Hurricane Irma, after caregivers failed to promptly seek help when the power – and thus air conditioning – was out for days in the sweltering heat. That center has since been shuttered.
It’s true that patients with greater mobility won’t require as much supervision, so it’s likely that will be a key sticking point in this case. Inadequate supervision is a form of negligence often alleged against Florida nursing homes, mainly because so many are so poorly staffed (particularly for-profit centers).
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
West Palm nursing home sued for leaving 98-year-old in blistering sun, May 22, 2018, By Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post
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When Nursing Home Residents Smoke: Injuries and Liability, May 10, 2018, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog