Death of Resident Who Fell from Nursing Home Window: A Lesson in Taking Suicidal Thoughts Seriously in Elderly Populations, or is There More to This Story?

When residents of nursing homes report suicidal thoughts, what is the appropriate response? How can one determine if residents’ statements are an expression of being unhappy with their living arrangements or if they have actual intent to harm themselves?

While every situation is unique, one thing is for certain- every person who reports having suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously. This requires an immediate and appropriate response.

There are many standardized screening tools which are used to assess for suicide. These tools not only assess for thoughts of suicide, but also a person’s intent to follow through, and if they have a plan. The more detailed the plan and lethal the method, the higher the risk of death.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, our society is too quick to dismiss statements made by the elderly that they are suicidal. However, every time a person reports suicidal thoughts, it must be reported and followed up on, regardless of their age. Medical professionals are mandated reporters, and it is our duty to provide appropriate care. Did any of the medical staff at Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns report Judith Schrecengost’s statements about suicide to the physician or notify emergency personnel? Was she ever evaluated by a psychiatrist? Perhaps, if she had been taken more seriously and received the mental health care she needed, her family would not be mourning her loss, today.

Now, Schrecengost’s family is pursuing legal action against the facility. The family denies that Schrecengost purposely fell from the window, but how can anyone ever be sure? What is for sure, is that there was a loose bolt on the window from which she fell, and staff failed to recognize she was even missing. Personally, I find it reprehensible that staff did not recognize she was missing or had fallen until the following morning. Staff did not find it alarming that an elderly resident was absent from her room the entire evening? They weren’t concerned that she never went to bed?

Residents deserve better than this, as do their families.

The complete article regarding this story may be found here:

Details emerge in death of great-grandmother who fell from Tonawanda nursing home window | Business Local |

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