Depending on the individual, even the most mundane parts of a long-term care facility can pose a risk of harm. While we normally associate an injury at a long-term care facility with an error committed by staff or a faulty device, many facilities– and particularly those that care for the developmentally disabled— need to take precautions to make make sure potentially dangerous materials are kept securely out of reach of the residents.
Patients with developmental disabilities and other conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia are most at risk for episodes of self-inflicted harm— be it intentional or not.
Consequently, facilities that care for these people must take additional precautions that go beyond merely keeping some of these materials out of sight. Because many of these people remain vigorous and able-bodied, facilities should ensure that potential dangerous materials are kept in a sure area and train staff on this potential threat to resident safety.
Tragically, an episode involving a developmentally disabled man at a Washington Assisted Living Facilty made headlines when he died after drinking laundry detergent. The Seattle Times reported that the 30-year-old man was transferred to a community living program months before the deadly incident where he was to be supervised by an organization that concentrates in caring for those with disabilities. It was also reported that this man lived alone.
Presently officials with The Department of Socials Health Services and local police are investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident.
While we await the results from this investigation, I’m sure that authorities will focus both on this man’s background with respect to any similar incidents in the past as well as why a potentially deadly poison was so accessible. Hopefully this agency will take a second look at the way it care for people with similar disabilities an implement much stronger safeguards to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
For laws related to Washington nursing homes, look here.
Acute renal failure following detergent ingestion (pdf) Singapore Med J 2009; 50(7) : e256