In the course of examining the numerous unfortunate cases of abuse and neglect of patients at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, sometimes other issues, even basic ones, get lost in the shuffle but are very significant when it comes to caring for patients. In addition to meeting adequate standards of care in accordance with government regulations and the ever-evolving patient bills of rights, nursing homes also have a duty to ensure even the most basic safety for its residents irrespective of medical treatment.
This includes making sure that the building that houses the patients is itself safe and up to the proper safety and fire codes; that all fire alarms and sprinkler systems function properly; and that evacuation protocols are designed to ensure residents are removed from the building in the event of fire or other imminent danger. In recent coverage about the deficiencies at Sauk Valley nursing homes, it was reported that in addition to negligence and a lack of care, some of the nursing homes even failed to properly follow building and fire codes.
Elderly Fire Death in Edgewater
In a very sad and tragic incident that occurred right after New Year’s, an 81 year old woman died in a fire at a high-rise senior living facility called The Breakers at Edgewater Beach in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. A raging fire broke out on the 26th floor of the building, as reported by local news. The resident was taken two to hospitals in critical condition and with substantial burns before she died. After an examination over the weekend, the county medical examiner determined that the resident died of “thermal injuries” caused by “careless use of smoking materials,” while the secondary caused was attributed to heart disease. The death was ruled an accident. The fire at the building was extinguished by the sprinkler system, which according to a local news report was fortunately activated in time to put out the fire and restrict the damage to the resident’s apartment unit.
While this was a horrible, horrible accident and resulted in the senseless death of an elderly nursing home resident, one could argue that it could have been avoided. In part, this case shows the importance of keeping proper watch over residents at nursing homes and long-term care facilities to ensure they do not do anything that could lead to injury or even death. Many of these patients are elderly, and many infirmed either physically and/or mentally, and require proper supervision.
This case is also a reminder of the necessity for buildings to be up to fire codes and to ensure that all alarms work properly. Facility staff must have adequate evacuation procedures to ensure that residents are moved out of the building and to a safe location at all costs, and to ensure they also receive medical attention where they may be injured, have burns or have suffered smoke inhalation. Prospective patients and their loved ones should also take these issues into mind when considering nursing home residency, as basic safety is paramount along with proper care and attention by staff.
See Related Blog Posts: