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Even mundane areas of a nursing home can become deadly

March 5, 2010
by JRosenfeld
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Despite the glimpse of warmer temperatures that are (hopefully) around the corner, many nursing homes and long-term care facilities have their heating systems working at full force. Unfortunately, some of these facilities were constructed at a time when radiant heating systems were state of the art.

Fearing the danger radiators and portable heating units pose to disabled nursing home patients may seem like somewhat of an alarmist attitude, but the reality is that anything can pose a danger to people who may be unable to appreciate threats to themselves or others.

A radiator in a Minneapolis nursing home patient's room turned deadly when the man ‘wedged’ his foot between his bed and the uncovered radiator directly that was directly below where he slept. The man suffered second and third degree burns to his legs that appeared to be “to the bone.” Four weeks later, the man died from complications related to the burns, and it was the second time in 12 months that a nursing home resident in Minnesota was injured by a heating element.

An investigation into the incident determined the facility was negligent in its care of this dementia patient because the facility knew that this man was prone to do this. In fact, the nursing home had noted that the man had a similar episode of wedging his feet between the radiator shortly before this incident occurred.

The Star Tribune reported that an inspection two weeks after the incident “found 10 beds within 20 inches of radiators. At least six residents using those beds were considered at risk for falls and potential burns. Radiator surface temperatures ranged from 82 to 119 degrees.”

As a lawyer who has represented burn victims, I can personally attest to the horrific pain these victims experience while undergoing burn treatments. Many burn patients require skin grafts and other painful surgeries to heal the wound and reduce the risk of infection. In this respect, it always aggravates me when I hear of a person who needlessly suffered a burn injury because the toll the injury takes on the individual.

Do you believe there are any potentially dangerous areas in your facility that may also appear mundane? Discuss them in the comments below.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is a lawyer who represents people injured in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Jonathan has represented victims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout Illinois and across the country. Visit his personal blog at www.nursinghomesabuseblog.com and his Web site BedsoreFAQ.com.

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