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Who is Keeping Track of Your Loved One?

Many across the country, but especially in the northeast and in Western New York, recall the pre-Thanksgiving deluge of snow that completely buried the greater Buffalo area, and left businesses closed and residents shut in their homes. The snow fall was so deep and the roads so buried and treacherous that it was nearly impossible to get around. Some facilities even had to be evacuated. Even the Buffalo Bills had to escape to Detroit, Michigan, to play its game that weekend that was supposed to be played in Buffalo.

Amidst the madness, a nursing home in the Buffalo area was forced to evacuate its more than 170 residents as well as staff personnel because the snowfall was so heavy that local building and fire officials thought it might actually collapse the building’s roof, which is what already had happened to an adjacent building. This of course could lead to injuries and burying the residents in mounds of snow, so it was a seemingly prudent and responsible decision by the facility’s management to protect its residents.

Since many of the nursing home residents require constant care, many had to be moved to other facilities at least temporarily. It was first reported that one of the residents suffered a seizure during the course of the evacuation, and subsequently died from the seizure upon arriving to another nursing home for care. This is of course a sad and unfortunate tragedy, but the one problem was that the nursing home that evacuated this patient along with other residents actually failed to keep track of patients and what had actually occurred.

The home actually mixed up the names of the patient presumed to have died from a seizure with another patient. After the deceased patient’s family demanded to know why they were not notified of the seizure event and why the patient was not loaded into an ambulance, the nursing home’s ownership company indicated that it was actually another patient that had suffered a seizure during the evacuation, and that the patient who died did not die of a seizure. The company attributed this to a simple switching of names in the chaos and with the priority of maintaining patient confidentiality. The patient who actually had suffered the seizure had made it back to the original nursing home after it reopened two nights later.

It is unclear now what caused the first patient’s death now that it appears there was no such seizure. The New York State Department of Health has commenced an investigation into her death to determine the true cause, and presumably to determine if there is any fault to be assigned with regard to the nursing home. The nursing home company, of course, believes it was simply natural causes and that nothing improper had occurred and that it was not related to the facility’s staff moving the patient.

As far as the confusion, it could very well be an unfortunate mix-up in the chaos of moving patients, which can be truly complicated given how weak many of them are, and how many might need certain equipment or medical devices with them during the course of the move. So while some deference is due to those who scramble to help these patients in an emergency situation, families and loved ones unfortunately must hope that nothing gets lost along the way, and that such confusion does not lead to a false report, or worse, a patient receiving the wrong treatment due to a mix-up.

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