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Nursing Home Staffers Must Be Trained to Diffuse Patient Aggression

A tragic story out of Missouri is an example of why it is so important that nursing home staffers be appropriately trained in how to diffuse escalating tensions among patients that may be suffering from dementia and aggression.

Our Weston nursing home abuse lawyers understand that a 76-year-old nursing home patient died after he suffered complications from injuries he sustained while being subdued with a police Taser.

According to news reports, the man was behaving erratically all morning. Tt one point, he reportedly grabbed a knife and a pair of scissors and began threatening staffers, who called police to help regain control of the situation.

The patient did not speak English, so although officers indicated that he needed to drop the knife in his hand, the confused man instead put the knife to his throat. The officers said that in order to keep the man from hurting himself, they used a Taser on him. The impact of the Taser caused the man to fall to the floor and suffer a serious head injury.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died about two weeks later of complications from his injuries, which included pneumonia.

Nursing home administrators would later call the man’s death “an unfortunate situation,” though they defended staff actions. The police department said it would tap an outside agency to conduct an investigation into the matter.

While there are no statistics on the number of instances in which police have used Tasers or stun guns on nursing home residents or even elderly individuals, there have been indications that the devices can trigger irregular heart rhythms that may lead to cardiac arrest.

Whether the police department acted appropriately in this case remains to be seen. What we do know is that aggression is a well-known problem among dementia patients, and it’s one with which nursing homes in Florida and across the country are increasingly going to have to contend as the population continues to age.

Health care workers – and nursing home staffers in particular – must be appropriately trained in how to deescalate situations like this.

The Sanford Center for Aging has recently developed a model for identifying and addressing aggressive behaviors in elderly dementia patients. The center identified the toilet, dining and bathroom/shower as the three areas where aggression is most likely to occur.

The center theorizes that aggression is a manifestation of:
–Cognitive impairment;
–Functional status (being unable to initiate or complete a task);
–Environmental stimuli or social isolation;
–Emotional states such as anxiety or the inability to express needs.

Caregivers are encouraged to define the problem, analyze whether there was anyone or anything that triggered the behavior, figure out what happened after the behavior and then plan for some type of future intervention. Doing so requires either changing what took place before, what consequence took place afterward or altering both.

Medical professionals should also rule out other causes of inappropriate or aggressive behaviors, such as pain or medication side effects.

Researchers underscore the importance of refraining from arguing with a person who is in the midst of an aggressive episode or telling them “No.” Instead, the focus should be on speaking calmly, validating one’s feelings and redirecting his or her attention.

Keeping a regular routine, maintaining patient involvement in certain choices and being flexible when necessary can be key to avoiding an aggressive episode in the first place.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
St. Louis Park nursing home patient dies after police use Taser on him, Aug. 22, 2013, By Brad Schrade, Star Tribune

More Blog Entries:
Can Dementia Patients in Florida Nursing Homes Have Consensual Sex? Aug. 8, 2013, Weston Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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