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Two Nursing Home Employees Charged for Resident's Death

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that, following an investigation by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, two workers at a Beckham County nursing home were recently charged in connection to the death of a 76-year-old resident.

The 28-year-old Granite, Oklahoma woman charged with the resident death is a certified nurse at the facility and was responsible for the resident at the time of her death. The resident reportedly died after a fall, which occurred while being transferred from her bed to a wheelchair. The certified nurse, employed at Bell Avenue Nursing Center is Elk City, is charged with second degree felony murder-neglect by a caretaker, abuse and neglect by a caretaker, concealing a crime, and conspiracy to conceal a crime.

Another certified nurse, a 33-year-old Elk City woman, was also charged after the investigation concluded. She is now charged with concealing a crime and conspiracy to conceal a crime. The investigation was prompted by the woman’s death, which Elk City Police were concerned was caused by caretaker neglect and abuse and forwarded the case on to the state Attorney General.

Nursing homes are required to indicate on their care plans which residents are susceptible to falls, and how to prevent them during routine daily activities like transferring from a bed to a wheelchair. A recent study, conducted at Newcastle University, analyzed Parkinson’s patients to determine which factors could predict repeated falls.

Researchers examined 94 newly-diagnosed Parkinson’s patients who had never fallen and tracked them throughout one year. After 12 months, 68% remained non-fallers, 12% experienced one fall, and 18% fell multiple times. Features associated with recurrent fallers included lower strength, stance time, decreased balance, and slower cognitive responses.

Frequent falls are a common problem in nursing homes, and particularly in residents diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or dementia. If nurses and caregivers are in any way neglectful or abusive, falls can result in catastrophic, even life-threatening injuries.

The CDC affirms that, every year, falls kill about 1,800 nursing home residents, and nearly 30% of slip-and-fall incidents are preventable. Some nursing homes, often for-profit facilities run by large chain corporations, overwork and understaff their employees in pursuit of profits. Due to this, employees are often too busy to notice or properly clean a slippery floor or burnt-out light bulbs, increasing the risk of falls in residents.

Overworked employees also do not get nearly enough one-on-one time with residents and cannot adequately monitor them all; this decreased interaction also increases the risk of accidents and lead to premature death. The lead researcher at Newcastle University wrote that her team’s findings highlighted the importance of targeting impaired mobility and cognition as indicators of potential falls in Parkinson’s (and dementia) patients.

In addition to the 94 Parkinson’s patients, the team also contacted more than 120 other patients recently diagnosed with the disease to explore other motor and cognitive factors for falls. They were asked to keep a diary of their falls over a 12-month period. Researchers evaluated the submissions and found that those who fell had lower postural instability and gait, and suffered higher levels of disease progression over that year. A study conducted before that at Newcastle found that measures of balance while standing were most-associated with falling.

These results indicated that gait (pattern or manner of movement) are significant markers of fall risk, though more work is needed to determine a full set of risk characteristics so comprehensive strategies for prevention may be developed.

It should be noted that Parkinson’s patients often demonstrate propulsive gait, which manifests through a stooped, stiff posture with head and neck bent forward. Nursing home negligence lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are accepting and investigating cases of nursing home abuse and neglect in all 50 states, and have decades of experience working with victims of elder neglect. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to potential clients nationwide.