Unexpected Deaths in Nursing Homes

A nursing home resident should not die suddenly and unexpectedly except by a diagnosable medical condition that has the potential to cause death such as congestive heart failure.

If someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly in a nursing home and you are not able to get straight, honest answers as to what happened–and why–you should have someone investigating that death as soon as possible.

Some red flags to watch out for:

1.) The staff does not tell you much information about what happened before the person passed away (ex; what happened before cardiac arrest). For example, the resident suddenly has a cardiac arrest after being in cafeteria for a meal.

2.) The staff does not tell paramedics much information about how the resident was acting before the life threatening condition (ex; cardiac arrest).

3.) The staff blames the resident’s death on “old age” and/or spends time talking about how the resident lived a long life.

4.) The head nurse asks the staff to withhold information.

5.) The nursing home does not want to share the resident’s medical records with you.

Any sudden or suspicious death, or death involving physical trauma in a nursing home should be investigated by a medical examiner / coroner. For example, if complications from a fracture killed the person, the medical examiner will put that as the cause of the death.

Nursing home does not like it when a medical examiner / coroner gets involved because they want family members to believe their loved one died a natural death and that there was no negligence.

You should always file a complaint with the agency in your state that oversees nursing homes. One lady found out that her grandmother passed away because she was given the wrong medicine according to the state investigation.

Also, you should consult with an attorney who would do the following things:

1.) Put the facility on notice of a potential claim and their legal requirement to preserve evidence like video footage of certain dates and times.

2.) Obtain all video footage

3.) Identify and interview witnesses

4.) Review all medical records

5.) Check for changes or alterations to records

6.) Consult experts

When a potential lawsuit defendant knows or should know there’s a potential legal claim being investigated, and they may have certain evidence in their possession such as video footage, they have a duty not to destroy that evidence.

If they do destroy it, an attorney may be able to get sanctions for destruction of evidence (called “spoliation”), which may include the jury being instructed that the evidence would have helped the case.

Sadly, many families never investigate what may have caused the sudden or unexpected death of their loved one in a nursing home. It is important to always investigate a sudden or unexpected death and hold the nursing home accountable if they are responsible for causing the death.


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