Dangerous and Deadly: Smoking in Nursing Homes When There is a Lack of Supervision
We all know about the dangers of smoking as it relates to potential health consequences. But did you know that smoking in a nursing home is an immediate and direct hazard that can cause residents to suffer serious burns? Smoking at a nursing home is actually one of the most dangerous things that a resident can do. Why? Because most residents in a nursing home may be have some form disability, either physically or cognitively, which makes adding fire a dangerous combination. Some residents rely on oxygen to help them breathe. Combining fire and an oxygen tank is an incredibly dangerous recipe that can easily in very serious personal injuries, horrific burns and even a wrongful death.
In fact, just this week in Ohio, Joseph Konopa, a resident of a nursing home died while he was smoking outside his facility while using oxygen. Somehow, his wheelchair caught on fire which resulted in a large fire. Someone who was driving by the nursing home facility was the first to notice the flames. When he stopped he found the wheelchair on fire and the resident facedown on the ground. Unfortunately Mr. Konopa died by the time first responders got there.
Just last year a similar incident happened in the St. Louis area involving a resident at a local nursing home, a case handled by the Terry Law Firm. In that case, the resident was not using an oxygen tank but because of her physical infirmities somehow managed to catch on fire while smoking on a nursing home patio. Unfortunately, she died of her burns about 36 hours later.
The danger associated with smoking and nursing home residents has been known for a long time. Fatal fires associated with nursing home residents smoking, particularly while using oxygen tanks or oxygen therapy, was identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a deadly risk over a decade ago. In addition, other government research confirms how dangerous this practice is and why it should be curtailed. Not too long after the CDC report, Massachusetts General Hospital provided a smoking and oxygen use warning which was nationally available.
But Where Was the Nursing Home Staff?!
Anytime a resident is smoking there must be certain safety precautions, since this is a known, dangerous activity for a resident to engage in. This is why staff must be present and supervise residents who smoke and are unlikely to be able to manage smoking themselves. When there is inadequate supervision and a lack of staffing, there could be an injury just waiting to happen. Smoking in nursing homes is just dangerous.
No Supervision When Smoking? Not a Safe Environment
From the articles written about Mr. Konopa’s death, it appears that there were no staff members supervising him while he smoked outside. Supervision is critical whenever residents are engaged in dangerous activities, including smoking. Residents who are in Missouri nursing homes are already vulnerable—that is why they are there. Allowing nursing home residents to smoke unsupervised is incredibly dangerous, reckless, careless, and in some instances downright negligent. This is particularly true where a resident has some form of disability, particularly a physical or cognitive disability.
In order to make smoking safe in a nursing home, a facility must provide adequate supervision of a resident with any degree of cognitive or physical impairment. If there is a lack of staffing to protect a resident who is smoking, that nursing home is failing to provide the correct level of care and supervision required under the law. Staff must also be trained to meet the needs of each resident, which would include monitoring residents who smoke and determining how to ensure they are safely engaging in smoking.
Was a Loved One Injured or Wrongfully Killed in a Missouri Nursing Home Fire Due to Smoking? Call Us For Your Case of Smoking in Nursing Homes
If your loved one was seriously injured or wrongfully killed due to a smoking incident in a nursing home, call our experienced Missouri nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to learn how we can protect your rights to compensation. Here at the Terry Law Firm, we represent victims of serious incidences of nursing home abuse, neglect, negligence, and other harms which should have been prevented with adequate supervision, training, care, and other services from nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, assisted living homes, and other facilities. Call our law firm to schedule a FREE appointment by dialing (314) 334-1439.