Nursing home accused of ignoring resident's fatal head injury

It seems like medical personnel at Pittsburgh nursing homes should be able to recognize when an elderly resident has a head injury and take steps to treat the affected person. But after a woman in another state died two weeks after she injured her head in a fall, state investigators are accusing nursing staff at the woman's assisted-living facility of neglecting her injury until it was too late.

According to the state health department, the woman was known to fall while getting out of bed. On Nov. 18, 2011, staff at the facility noticed that the woman had two noticeable bumps on her head. The next day, she required help in the bathroom and staff discovered bruises on the back of her head. The next morning, the resident was unable to open her eyes or respond to staff members. The facility's registered nurse was finally told about the head injuries, and the resident was sent to the hospital. She died of her injuries on Dec. 5 of that year.

The health department investigated the death and released its report earlier this January. It criticized the staff for not notifying a registered nurse until three days had passed. The injury occurred on a Friday and no nurse was at the facility until the following Monday. The facility did not provide an on-call nurse for staff to contact during the weekend, the report said.

While it may never be known if prompt notification could have saved the resident's life, it is likely that the three days of negligent care contributed to her condition.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "State: Columbia Heights assisted-living center neglected resident who fell and died," Paul Walsh, Jan. 22, 2013