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Last week the press announced that the family of a 76-year-old Longview woman, who died after suffering a head injury from a fall in a nursing home and being left undiagnosed for more than two days, will receive a nearly $1.9 million settlement.

According to court documents, the woman was admitted to the Evergreen Frontier nursing home in January 2004 for rehabilitation from a stroke, where she was making good progress in her recovery.

On April 2, 2004, a nursing assistant student left Wart unattended –contrary to Wart’s care plan — and she fell from her bed, striking her head on the floor.

Although Wart showed symptoms of serious head injury including vomiting and increased blood pressure, she was left untreated for 48 hours until she was found comatose. She was transferred to St. John’s hospital where she died two days later.

It is particularly important to treat and monitor head injuries in older persons. The use of anti-coagulants makes them more likely to suffer from brain bleeds. Similarly, the increased space between older people’s brains and skulls makes them more vulnerable to serious closed-head injuries.

Unfortunately incidents like this are all too common. Undertrained or uncaring “care givers” fail to treat our parents and grandparents with the competence and dignity they deserve. Cases like this can be brought under common law or the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act — a Washington law designed to protect nursing home patients.

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