Articles Posted in Nursing Home Liability/Elder Abuse

Late last night there was a Lawrenceville fire at an assisted living facility for seniors. Thankfully, no one was injured. However, they easily could have been. The fire allegedly broke out in one of the residents’ rooms when an electric lamp was overturned. According to the report, the bulb broke when the lamp hit the bed, and the mattress and bedding burst into flames.

This immediately raises questions not only about how securely the lamp was anchored, but also about the suitability of the bedding and mattress for an assisted living facility. After all, residents of personal care homes commonly have issues with mobility and other physical impairments. In this case, an “alert staff member” was able to put out the fire and quickly escort the residents to a safe area. But what if the staff member had not been alert…or even nearby?

Facilities charged with caring for the mobility-impaired often make a point of using flame-retardant bedding and mattresses to prevent such hazards. Also, bulbs that generate limited heat, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, are much more fire-safe than their traditional incandescent counterparts. These are just two simple precautions a conscientious personal care home will take to ensure the safety of its residents.

Fire injury precautions are widely considered best practices for facilities dedicated to serving the elderly, and personal care homes are expected to have “fire resistant drapery and bedding,” as outlined in Georgia’s State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, according to the Rules and Regulations of the Fire Safety Commisioner.

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As an Atlanta Elder Abuse Attorney, I was dismayed to hear the horrifying news of elder neglect that has unfolded over the past week in Greater Atlanta. Steven Easton, who ran an elder care facility out of his home in Monroe, Walton County, was arrested on Wednesday, March 24 on charges of felony murder and cruelty to a person over the age of 65. The reason? Last July, Easton had dropped the elderly Thomas Watkins at Walton Regional Medical Center, telling the staff that Watkins was homeless with no family. The medical center’s staff stabilized Watkins, but then realized he was in serious need of additional care and transferred him Atlanta Regional Medical Center. He died ten days later.

Watkins had been a resident at Easton’s nursing home, yet his state of neglect had rendered him unrecognizable to his own daughters. He had extreme bedsores, including multiple ulcers where bones and tendons were actually visible through his flesh. The sores had gotten infected and progressed to sepsis, then to organ failure, and ultimately his death. However, officials said all of this was preventable, and that to have reached that point probably was the result of months of neglect. Only after Watkins was cremated did his daughter contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about possible Medicaid fraud. She believed not only that Easton had neglected her father’s health, but that he also had taken her father’s remaining money as soon as he unloaded him at the medical center. GBI found no evidence of this, but they did contact the Walton County Sheriff’s Office about a possible elder abuse case.

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