An elderly resident at a Minnetonka memory care facility suffered a fatal fall while a newly hired staff member slept nearby, according to a state Health Department investigation.
In findings released Tuesday, the department's Office of Health Facility Complaints concluded that the unlicensed employee at Emerald Crest by Augustana Care was responsible for the death in July of the woman, identified Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office as 97-year-old Ethel A. Grover.
Dave Saemrow, vice president for marketing and public relations for the facility's nonprofit parent organization, Edina-based Augustana Care, called Grover's death an "unfortunate incident [that] affected everyone at Emerald Crest, and we want to express our deepest sorrow that it happened at all."
Saemrow said the employee was fired and administrators "have reviewed all safety policies and procedures extensively and retrained staff."
Grover, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, "was known to wake … during the night and required supervision, engagement and redirection when awake," the agency noted in its investigation. "The client began wandering in the common area, sustained a left femur fracture and later died."
The report revealed that the staff member said she was working on her laptop around 3 a.m. and hadn't noticed Grover getting out of her recliner until hearing the woman say, "I can't get up; help me."
But video surveillance contradicted the account, showing "the [staffer] was on the sofa asleep, without movement, for over 30 minutes" when the resident fell and hit her leg on a medication cart, according to the findings. The staff member was not identified.
Grover's leg required surgery. She returned to the facility but died 19 days later of complications from decreased mobility, according to her death certificate.
In an interview during the inquiry, the staff member said she was hired about a month before the incident and knew that the resident required direct supervision. She went on to explain that "she had been under stress recently and might have dozed off."