A nursing home in Champaign County, Illinois is being sued over the death of a resident who was left outside in a hot courtyard. The 78-year-old resident died last June of hyperthermia.
The lawsuit alleges that the nursing home’s negligence was the cause of the woman’s avoidable death. Security cameras showed that the victim was left outside for three hours in the heat.
The lawsuit claims the nursing home’s staff failed to supervise the resident and properly secure the property, which led to her death.
Temperatures hit nearly 90 degrees that day. Her death was ruled accidental, with dementia as a contributing factor.
The Illinois Department of Health conducted an investigation at the facility, and found that staff members were propping open doors against the home’s policy.
The facility’s policy requires doors to be remain closed and alarmed due to the cognitive status of patients in the memory-care unit.
“Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence in nursing homes,” said attorney Patricia Gifford. “When facilities decide to house residents with memory issues like Alzheimer’s or dementia, the facility has a duty to implement protocols to ensure their safety.”
The victim, Sonya Kington, suffered from dementia and was a memory-care patient at the facility. She entered the courtyard around 1:47pm, security cameras showed. Kington was not discovered by staff until 5:30pm, her skin “very hot to the touch” and vomit on both sides of her mouth. She was deceased at the time of her finding.
The lawsuit alleges that the nursing home facility “failed in their duty to provide the necessary services and treatments to prevent the death of Ms. Kington in failing to properly secure the facility and in failing to properly supervise Ms. Kington.”
According to https://coganpower.com/, “Nursing home facilities and their staff have an obligation to provide the appropriate level of care to ensure the safety of their nursing home residents. The failure to do so may be considered medical malpractice, which may entitle the victim (or his or her family in the event of death) to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages.”
The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some degree of elder abuse. Studies have also shown that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are actually reported to the authorities.
Hypothermia is a very real threat to seniors. In the same month Kington died, a heatwave in California claimed the lives of two seniors in the Bay area. Temperatures reached as high as 94 degrees, as the area remained under a heat advisory.
Dr. Michelle Jordan, Santa Clara County’s chief medical examiner said hyperthermia occurs when a person’s heat-regulation system can no longer handle hot temperatures.
“It is tragic when someone dies of hyperthermia since in most every case it could have been prevented,” Jordan said in statement at the time.
The risk of heat-related death increases with age. Dehydration, high blood pressure, alcohol use, reduced sweating, heart disease and being substantially overweight can all increase the risk of hyperthermia, or heat-related deaths.