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Is Nursing Home to Blame When A Patient Inflicts Injury on Themselves?

Senior Self Injury LiabilityI spend a lot of time talking about injuries sustained by nursing home patients when nursing home staff are irresponsibly doing their job. The truth is that most nursing home patients suffer from some type of physical disability that makes them reliant on the staff at a nursing home and for practical purposes it is relatively difficult for them to act in a self destructive manner.

Some nursing home patients are physically able and are indeed capable of causing harm to themselves or other patients at the facility. While a different demographic, nursing home staff need to evaluate these patients and create the same type of care plans that they do for patients with physical limitations. For patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s or cognitive limitations, a plan of care needs to specifically lay our how the facility is to address each of their needs including: suicidal thoughts, physical aggression towards others and wandering.

Too frequently, we forget about this emerging nursing home demographic and mistakenly assume that a physically capable person requires less care than patient confined to a bed.

Just weeks after her admission to Savoy Nursing Home, a 72-year-old woman with diagnosed jumped from a second-story window at the facility. The episode resulted in serious injuries and fractures to her lag and hip.

After reading the news account of this incident I was disappointed to hear that the local police department would not be investigating the matter. According to police lieutenant John Chaves, the matter ” wasn’t sent up for investigation because it appears there was no foul play. It appears that she jumped on her own.”

Perhaps, I am being overly critical of this decision, but aside from the fact that this woman was admitted to a skilled nursing facility because she required medical care that she was not receiving elsewhere, the fact remains that the facility knew of this woman’s propensity to wander.  According to Chaves, the woman “has a history of trying top sneak away from her own home.”

While it is the prerogative of the police department to investigate matters that they deem proper, as a nursing home abuse attorney, I can only consider how unfortunate this incident is– and how it likely should have been prevented with proper care. Aside from the obvious concern about proper levels of staff supervision, I very take issue with a nursing home housing dementia patients on a second floor with windows that can open wide enough for a person to get through. Installing window locks or alarms on the windows is a common practice at facilities that care for patients with Alzheimer’s and such safeguards could have seemingly prevented this incident.

Hopefully, this incident will get investigated by the state regulatory agency and such corrective measures will be implemented before another similarly situated patient suffers a similar fate.

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