Man dies in assisted living facility after drinking detergent

New York residents concerned with elder care issues may be interested in the story of a father and former Chicago Bears running back who died in 2009 after he drank industrial-strength detergent. The man, who had developed dementia, wandered unsupervised into a cleaning closet, where he found the cleaning fluid. After the incident, he was brought to a hospital, where he died 10 days later at the age of 90. The company that ran the Georgia facility has taken responsibility for the man's death, acknowledging that a staff member neglected to lock the cabinet.

Facilities like the one where the man drank detergent are loosely regulated and frequently do not have a full-time nurse on duty. This is in contrast to nursing homes, which receive federal funding and are more tightly regulated and scrutinized. Additionally, conditions are challenging, and workers are often given minimum wage. Staffing issues and difficult conditions may lead to the neglect of assisted living residents.

The man's family sued the parent company of the facility, which settled out of court. Records from the facility revealed that for 30 minutes, no one was on duty in the wing where the man had found the detergent. The issues of safety and care at assisted living facilities are likely to be a growing concern as over the next 15 years, the number of Americans 70 and older will increase by 1 million annually.

Families who have lost a loved one due to nursing home neglect or abuse may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A New York attorney with a background in elder abuse and neglect cases may be able to assist family members in preparing a lawsuit and in demonstrating a facility's negligence by accessing shift records, security camera footage or safety reports.

Source: ABC News, "Dad Dies After Drinking Poison in Assisted Living", Susan Donaldson James, July 30, 2013

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