On April 9, 2019, a 71 year old veteran died after being attacked while residing at the St. Augustine Health and Rehabilitation nursing home. The man’s 84 year old roommate was found on top of him striking him in the face and head. The man was rushed to Orange Park Hospital and then to another hospital in Jacksonville; however, tragically, he died from his injuries.
According to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the medical examiner confirmed the man died from the attack due to blunt force trauma. His injuries included a fractured skull, broken bones and injuries to his eyes. The death has been ruled a homicide.
The victim had suffered a stroke years before that left him bed bound and partially paralyzed rendering him essentially defenseless. The reason for the attack has not been disclosed; however, the mental health of the other resident is, of course, being considered.
Tragic incidents such as this are largely preventable as an assault with this degree of violence is rarely a nursing home resident’s first sign of aggressive behavior. Rather, aggression may begin with verbal threats and progress to physical acts such as shoving or pushing. It is necessary that this type of behavior be recognized by nursing home staff and dealt with immediately in order to keep the other nursing home residents safe.
Resident on resident assaults can happen in nursing homes and steps must be taken by the nursing home operators in an effort to prevent these types of incidents. Many nursing home residents suffer from a degree of dementia. Some people suffering from dementia become aggressive even though they were never aggressive before. As such, it is very important that nurses and nurse assistants at nursing homes are always on the lookout for aggressive behavior on the part of any resident in order that responsive measures can be taken to protect the other residents.
For a lawyer handling a resident on resident assault case against a nursing home, it is important to obtain a complete clinical picture of the assailant’s behavior prior to the assault. Next, the attorney must determine what steps, if any, the nursing home took in response to any previous instances of aggression on the part of the assailant. In addition, it is important to look at the assailant’s criminal background and any history of aggressive behavior. Finally, the nursing home’s policies and training must be reviewed to determine if employees were properly trained and instructed on: screening residents to determine who is inappropriate for a nursing home setting; identifying signs of aggressive behavior on the part of a resident; and responding to such aggression.
Of the nursing homes we investigate, most of the time we find that they are understaffed. Because of this, CNAs and nurses do not have time needed to tend to each resident. Actions that require additional time, such as responding to, or reporting, the first signs of aggression by a resident, can often be pushed to the side with devastating consequences. In fact, in our experience, understaffing is the most common cause of nursing home neglect injuries and death.