Written by attorney Kenneth Lee LaBore

Avoiding Burns in Nursing Homes, Part 1

Nursing homes across Minnesota have an obligation to comply with minimum care standards established by state and federal regulations. Many times the explanation for burn injuries occurring to residents of Minnesota nursing homes, assisted living and other types of elder care facilities is related to a corporate organization which is focused on maximizing profits at the expense of safety. Many of the burn incidents resulting in serious injury or deaths could have been prevented with increased numbers of attentive and well qualified staff providing additional supervision.

Minnesota law requires that a nursing home must have on duty at all times a sufficient number of qualified nursing personnel, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants to meet the needs of the residents at all nurses' stations, on all floors, and in all buildings if more than one building is involved. This includes relief duty, weekends, and vacation replacements.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0015 states that a nursing home must operate and provide services in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and codes, and with accepted professional standards and principles that apply to professionals providing services in a nursing home.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0105 mandates that a nursing home must ensure that direct care staff are able to demonstrate competency in skills and techniques necessary to care for residents' needs, as identified through the comprehensive resident assessments and described in the comprehensive plan of care, and are able to perform their assigned duties.

According to federal regulation, 42 CFR §483.25 (h), Accidents; the facility must ensure that:

(1) The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and

(2) Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.

Minnesota Statute 626.5572, Subd. 3. Accident.

"Accident" means a sudden, unforeseen, and unexpected occurrence or event which:

(1) is not likely to occur and which could not have been prevented by exercise of due care; and (2) if occurring while a vulnerable adult is receiving services from a facility, happens when the facility and the employee or person providing services in the facility are in compliance with the laws and rules relevant to the occurrence or event.

Despite the state and federal regulations designed to protect vulnerable adult, there are still an unacceptably high number of preventable burn incidents in nursing homes but the most common involve hot water in bathtubs or showers, or thermal burns due to the misuse of hot packs, or injuries due unsupervised smoking of resident.

Whatever the nature of the burn, the underlying reason may well be due to nursing home neglect. Since the residents of Minnesota nursing homes residents are considered vulnerable adults it is the duty of the nursing home facility to assess the resident for risks and then keep them safe from those preventable risks, such as smoking in bed or with an oxygen tank on providing oxygen to the resident at the same time.

Request Nursing Home Smoking Policies

Minnesota Administrative Rules 4658.0135 POLICY RECORDS.

Subpart 1.

Availability of policies.

All policies and procedures directly related to resident care adopted by the home must be placed on file and be made available upon request to nursing home personnel, residents, legal representatives, and designated representatives.

Subp. 2.

Admission policies.

Admission policies must be made available upon request to prospective residents, family members, legal representatives, and designated representatives.

Questions regarding Burn Accidents, from Smoking:

Did the resident require supervision when smoking?

What were the resident’s risks?

Dementia, Medications, Oxygen?

Did the facility have a designated supervised smoking area?

Was there a facility sign out sheet for cigarettes and lighter?

How does the facility monitor for return of cigarettes and lighter?

Often an employee is over burdened due to insufficient staffing levels or not trained to check the temperature of a bath which results in the burn. Serious burns or other injuries from falls, occur when a resident is left alone without proper supervision in the tub or shower. Extended exposure to even moderately hot water temperature can cause serious burn injuries to elderly people due to reduced thickness and other changes in the skin. If you or someone you love has been a victim of a nursing home burn, no matter what the situation, it is important to contact a nursing home elderly abuse lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

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