State faults Rogers senior home for leaving resident in sun for hours

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 14, 2014 - 9:31 AM

An assisted-living facility in Rogers is being blamed for leaving an elderly client alone in a courtyard on an unseasonably hot afternoon and then realizing he had been there for hours under the hot sun and suffering from heat stroke.

The exposure, which violated the client’s care instructions, left the resident at The Wellstead of Rogers with a temperature of roughly 105 degrees nearly two hours after being brought inside, according to a Health Department report released Thursday.

The resident, who was not allowed “to go outside alone,” was taken to a hospital emergency room in critical condition and was expected to suffer increased risk of “cognitive decline,” the report added.

“The client was unsupervised in a secure courtyard for an unknown amount of time when temperatures reached a maximum of 91 degrees,” the report read, “and the client became unresponsive.”

Investigators learned from staff members that the memory-care unit was short-staffed during that afternoon last year, with one nurse and one nurse’s assistant on duty, and that it was dealing with “many visitors,” according to the report.

The nurse on duty also was covering for another unit in the facility that was without licensed staff.

In assigning responsibility to the facility, the report noted that The Wellstead of Rogers did not have procedures in place for the safe and supervised use of the courtyards by its residents. One employee told health officials that staff members “can use their discretion to override the locking mechanism on the door so clients can come and go from the courtyard.”

A follow-up visit by health officials in December found that the facility corrected its shortcomings.

As is practice, the report did not reveal the resident’s identity, gender or age. Police records, however, show the client was an 84-year-old man and that the incident occurred July 7.

Police officers further reported that the man was sunburned on his chest and stomach. One officer said that his questioning of a staff member determined that resident was in the courtyard for roughly two and a half hours.

The facility’s executive director, Susan Snyder, refused Thursday to address the report's findings and read from a statement expressing that she "cares deeply" about the residents.

According to the report:

A staff member noted that the resident was last seen participating in a unit activity between 10 and 11 a.m. As dinnertime approached, staff members began looking for him about 4:15 p.m., finding the resident 5 minutes later in the unlocked courtyard and appearing to be asleep in a lawn chair.

Efforts to rouse the client were fruitless, except for his slight head movement and a moaning sound.

Unable to get the resident into a wheelchair, he was lifted inside while still in the lawn chair. The resident was hot to the touch, staff said.

The first body temperature reading, taken nearly two hours after he was brought inside, was 104.9 degrees. His shirt unbuttoned and covered with a blanket, he was breathing rapidly and sweating.

Ice and cold towels were applied, and paramedics were called.

Upon admission to a hospital intensive care unit, the resident was listed in critical condition for heat stroke and other acute afflictions.

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