IDPH has cited and fined South Suburban Rehab nursing home in Homewood after a resident there was shot to death by a fellow resident.
One of the basic tasks that families look to nursing homes to do is to keep their family members safe. Sadly, there are incidents each year where residents are victimized by other residents whether by physical or sexual assaults. This is one which turned fatal.
The perpetrator of this assault was a 32 year old man who was a paraplegic due to injuries he sustained in a shooting a number of years earlier. He was admitted to the nursing home approximately two weeks before the murder. The nursing home ran a background check on him which showed that he had felony convictions for possession of controlled substances, battery, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
The victim was a 77 year old man who suffered from mental illness. He had been involuntarily discharged from the facility earlier in the year due to his aggressive physical and verbal behaviors toward other residents and staff.
During the days leading up to the shooting, there had been a number of altercations between the two residents, leading the younger man to make threatening remarks and comments to fellow residents about the victim. He managed to leave the facility, obtain a gun and return. On his return to the facility, he showed the gun to at least one other resident. The resident who saw the gun told the state surveyor that he told a CNA and a nurse about the gun. However, the staff members deny having been told about the gun.
On the night of the shooting, the younger man was agitated and moving about the facility in his wheelchair and on at least one occasion tried to leave the facility before being brought back by the staff. At about 3 am, he went into the victim’s room and shot him multiple times. The staff, hearing the gunshots, left the floor and called 911 to advise that shots had been fired and that there was an active shooter on the premises. Police and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, but the victim was mortally wounded. The murder weapon was recovered from the backpack located on the rear of the wheelchair of the younger resident.
Obviously, this is a tragic situation, but one which could have been prevented. As a starting point, the issue of whether the staff was aware of the presence of the firearm on the premises is in dispute. However, there is at least one account which establishes that at least two staff members were aware of the presence of the gun. It is un known whether other residents would say that additional staff members were aware of the presence of the gun. Assuming that were the case, the gun certainly should have been confiscated and the younger resident removed from the facility.
Past that, there were other opportunities to prevent this tragedy. Care planning is a mainstay for addressing the potential for resident-on-resident assaults. This is usually done by keeping the residents separated. The victim here had a long and well-known history of aggressive verbal and physical behaviors toward other residents, to the point that he had to be sent out for a psychiatric hospitalization. Closely monitoring the behavior of residents with these types of behavioral patterns and promptly intervening is a mainstay of preventing altercations between residents. However, it does not appear that proper care planning was done to address this potential. Past that, staff told the state surveyor that they were understaffed which would have badly inhibited the ability of the staff to monitor the behaviors and interactions of the residents under their care.
Additionally, it appears from the citation that the shooter got the gun out in the community. It also appears from the citation that the resident did not have community pass privileges which would allow him to come and go as he pleased from the facility. Assuming this to be the case, the resident would have had to wander (wandering from a nursing home is also known as elopement) from the facility and return without it being noted in the chart.
The defense of this claim in any later nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuit resulting from this incident will doubtless cast blame for the incident on the shooter and claim that the shooting was an unforeseeable criminal act. Shockingly, this can be a viable defense, one which is further complicated by limitations in the ability of the family to obtain police records and witness interviews. This is all the more reason to hire a well-qualified nursing home abuse and neglect attorney for this kind of case.
One of our core beliefs is that nursing homes are built to fail due to the business model they follow and that unnecessary accidental injuries and wrongful deaths of nursing home residents are the inevitable result. Order our FREE report, Built to Fail, to learn more about why. Our experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers are ready to help you understand what happened, why, and what your rights are. Contact us to get the help you need.
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