EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) — State health investigators have cited a Twin Cities assisted living center, after a resident’s death went unnoticed for two days. Her daughter is who ended up finding her dead.
It happened at The Commons on Marice in Eagan last October.
“My mother was a vibrant 92-year-old red head,” Debbie Singer said, describing her mother June Thompson.
She said June had passion for sports, helping others, and being independent.
“That was kind of part of her identity, her independence,” Singer said.
Thompson stayed at the Commons on Marice, an assited living community. Singer met with her there last October, just like any other day.
“We both said I love you and I would be back in a couple days,” Singer said.
Singer returned two days later and found newspapers and packages stacked outside her apartment door.
“My gut was, just — something is very wrong,” she said.
Singer walked inside and found her mom dead on her recliner, wearing the same clothes from two days earlier.
“The bathroom hadn’t been used, she hadn’t taken her medication for the past two days,” Singer said. “I mean, everything pointed to she had been gone [for several days].”
Singer said the medical examiner determined her mom died of nature causes shortly after they last met. The facility had a welfare check system called “I’m ok.”
“You had to push a button by a certain time in the morning, and if you didn’t they would call you,” Singer said. “And if you didn’t answer the phone, they would send somebody up.”
Singer called the Minnesota Department of Health. Investigators determined none of the welfare checks happened. The facility was cited for “substantiated neglect,” according to a report.
“If this is the one simple thing that isn’t being done, then what else is falling through the cracks?” Singer said.
Since her mother’s death, Singer has channeled her grief into helping others. She’s advocating for several proposed bills that call for assisted living centers in Minnesota to be regulated and licensed like nursing homes, such as proper staff-to-residents ratios and proper training. House Bill 3308 specifically states:
“Older and vulnerable adult protections provided, health care and home care bills of rights modified, regulation of home care providers modified, correction order provisions modified, training and operations panel within the Office of Health Facility Complaints established, vulnerable adult maltreatment reporting requirements modified, working groups established, reports required, and money appropriated.”
“If we can’t even have that as something to be confident it, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Singer said. “Nobody should have to go through anything like this.”
A Commons on Marice official says the facility has since implemented a new process to track daily check-ins. They released the following statement:
Our hearts go out to this resident’s family and friends and we are deeply sorry for their loss. Since this incident, we immediately reviewed our existing policies and procedures and strengthened our process for conducting resident welfare checks. The care our residents receive is our top priority. As a senior living community, we sometimes have residents pass away while living with us, and our intent is to always handle those events with respect and sensitivity.
We fully cooperated with the Minnesota Department of Health in its review of this matter and have asked for a reconsideration of its findings.