State: Columbia Hts. assisted-living facility neglected resident who fell, died

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 7:02 AM

Columbia Heights facility was cited after a resident fell in 2011, wasn't medically treated for days and then died.

A Columbia Heights assisted-living center is being held responsible for the death of a resident who suffered head injuries from a fall and received no medical attention for days afterward.

A state Health Department investigative report released last week says that Lighthouse of Columbia Heights "failed to report changes" in the resident's condition to a nurse and "failed to seek medical attention in a timely manner" after the resident fell in November 2011 and developed a sizable bump on one side of her head and a smaller one on the other side.

The resident, who had a history of frequently attempting to get out of bed only to fall, was "semi-responsive" and was hospitalized three days later before dying on Dec. 5 of that year, the report continued. Her death certificate said the fall caused her death.

In citing the center for neglect, the report noted that the facility had no registered nurse available for unlicensed staffers to call after hours in the event of changes in residents' conditions.

According to the report:

The head injuries were first detected Nov. 18, and the woman was not complaining of pain.

On Nov. 19, she called for help while holding herself up in the bathroom and complaining that her nose hurt. Later that night, a staff member noticed bruising on the back of her head.

On Nov. 20, the woman remained in bed unusually late and would not open her eyes or respond. It was on that morning that the registered nurse reported for work and was first told about the woman's condition. The resident was hospitalized later that day.

The center was also cited for not making its contracted registered nurse aware that a log was being kept by unlicensed staff members noting when residents were injured or had other changes in condition.

In this case, two staff notations were made before the woman was hospitalized regarding the fall that were never brought to the nurse's attention, the report continued.

The Health Department issued several licensing orders against the center, which the facility has since addressed and satisfied with corrections to its procedures.

Tammy Kucera, executive director of Lighthouse, said Tuesday that her facility's "top-to-bottom assessment of this tragic situation ... reached the same conclusions as the Department of Health."

Lighthouse responded by discontinuing use of the contract nurse, "making certain a nurse is accessible 24/7," retraining its staff and increasing compliance monitoring, Kucera added.

As is its practice, the Health Department did not disclose the identity of the resident.

Lighthouse of Columbia Heights is owned by New Perspective Senior Living of Edina. It also has Minnesota facilities in Mahtomedi, Waconia, Barnum and Cloquet, plus four locations in Wisconsin and one in Illinois.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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