The man died after losing 20 pounds within the three weeks since his arrival. State Health Department investigators had found the Stillwater care center negligent.
At age 71 and weighed down with dementia, Dean Cole became too much for his wife to handle at their Oakdale home. So on Dec. 8, 2006, his family placed him in a Stillwater nursing home.
Within 20 days, he had lost more than 20 pounds and was becoming agitated and combative. On Dec. 29 the staff was about to send Cole to a hospital behavioral unit for evaluation when they found him in a coma. They sent him to a hospital in Stillwater instead.
He died on Jan. 21, 2007, of dehydration, kidney failure and pneumonia.
On Monday, Cole's family filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against Golden LivingCenter Greeley nursing home. The suit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
The home's administrator, Sharon Thole, declined to comment on Tuesday because she has not seen the suit.
An investigation by the state last year found the home negligent in Cole's care for not preventing his dehydration, not maintaining his weight and not notifying his doctor of his weight loss.
"His wife, Virginia, saw him nearly every day in the nursing home, and when she asked about how he was eating, they told her he was doing fine," said attorney Mark Kosieradzki of Plymouth, who filed the suit on behalf of Cole's family in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
"It wasn't until he got to the hospital that she discovered that wasn't true," he said. On Kosieradzki's advice, the family declined to talk about Cole.
Fluid intake not monitored
The Health Department investigation found that Cole's weight dropped from 154.6 pounds when he entered the home to 134 pounds two days before he was sent to the hospital. The staff noted that he often refused to eat or take medications, and ate nothing at 15 of 24 meals during that time. The home's dietary manager recommended he be given a nutritional supplement three times a day, but it was never ordered.
On Dec. 27, 2006, the staff sent a fax to Cole's doctor noting that he was refusing medications, becoming combative and "not eating much," but did not mention the weight loss, the Health Department found.
Two days later, Cole was sent to the hospital and diagnosed with severe dehydration, renal failure, pneumonia and colitis. He was discharged to a different nursing home for hospice care on Jan. 10, 2007, and died 11 days later.
In a separate incident at the home two weeks after Cole was taken to the hospital, another male resident's lower leg was amputated after an improperly treated skin tear on the bottom of his foot turned gangrenous. The Health Department found the home responsible for neglect, but did not issue any citations because the home initiated new wound-care procedures and retrained the staff.
The home also was cited in 2005 for not giving a woman rehab therapy during her one-week stay after arm surgery.
Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253