A nursing home in Roseville, Minnesota is under investigation for the suffocation death of one of its elderly residents. The resident died when she became trapped between the grab bar and mattress on her bed.
Nursing home residents should never choke or suffocate in nursing homes. Choking and suffocation deaths in nursing home are preventable. Unfortunately, they do happen. And probably much more often than most people can imagine. Choking and suffocation continue to be leading causes of death in nursing homes.
Suffocation and Other Deplorable Conditions
According to an article in the StarTribune, Langston Place in Roseville is accused of not having the proper policy regarding the size of mattresses or space between the grab bar and mattress.
The victim’s husband claims that his wife’s suffocation death was only one of the disturbing issues his family encountered with Langston Place. He states that:
Langton Place one day ran out of the liquid nutrition she was fed through a tube. He also said she came down with cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, and needed to be hospitalized. He said he also found caked feces in his wife’s pubic area.
These conditions are overwhelmingly deplorable. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to provide a clean and safe environment. In addition to these horrific conditions, there is no good reason that a nursing home resident should ever die from choking. Nursing homes have a duty to provide a safe environment for their residents.
This includes providing a choking-free environment and training staff to react immediately if a resident shows any signs of choking. The nursing home must provide foods that the resident can tolerate.
The nursing home must closely monitor residents, especially residents at an increased risk of choking and suffocation. Unfortunately, choking and suffocation continue to be leading causes of death in nursing homes in the United States.
Facing Fines: Is it Enough?
The nursing facility is facing a fine and by the state’s recommendation has outlined how they will prevent similar incidents in the future. The article states that the facility is planning on appealing the State’s findings, claiming that:
the size of the allowable gap between the woman’s mattress and her grab bar “were well within [federal] guidelines” of 4½ inches. A statement issued later Tuesday by Ray added that “we continue to examine such unexpected incidents fully so we can better learn how to identify, eliminate and avoid any similar risks. “However, we do not agree with the state’s findings and believe their responses have not taken into account all of the facts. We continue to work with the state and other experts to gain a clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding this death.”
The staff explained that they did not have a written procedure for mattress and grab bar maintenance. Instead, they addressed issues as they came up. According to the article, a nurse checked on the resident at 4 a.m. and an hour and a half later she was wedged between her mattress and the grab bar. She had fresh bruising according the autopsy.
The facility is facing a fine which often times is an ineffective punishment. According to MedicareAdvocacy.com:
Civil Money Penalties for nursing facilities have historically been too low to provide meaningful incentive for most facilities to comply with federal standards of care implemented to ensure patient safety and well-being. The new Civil Money Penalty Analytic Tool from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) does not solve this problem.
It is difficult to financially hurt companies enough to make change that own several care facilities. According to the article, Langston Place is operated by Presbyterian Homes which has a total of 43 senior living facilities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
Staff Training About Choking Hazards and Risks
In order to prevent choking deaths in nursing homes, all nursing homes must make sure that they have trained their staff on choking risks factors, assessing the patient for choking risks, and responding to choking emergencies. They are also responsible for creating a safe environment where residents are not in danger of suffocating.
Without sufficient training in these areas, nursing home patients will surely die, and any nursing home manager knows this.
Protocols for Managing Choking Emergencies
Does the nursing home have a protocol for managing choking or suffocation emergencies? It is never acceptable for a nursing home to refuse to develop a protocol to save the lives of patients who are choking or suffocating. Nursing homes know that eventually someone will have a choking event. To not have a management plan to save a choking resident’s life or prevent them from suffocating is nothing short of homicide.
If you believe that your loved one has been injured or even killed by a suffocation death at a care facility. Please contact me. I believe that almost all choking or suffocation injuries and deaths could have been prevented.
If you would like more information on choking and suffocation, we have a page on our web site dedicated to information on how choking and suffocation can be prevented. You can access that page here.
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