This post was updated on 7-26-2019.
Assisted living facilities must take reasonable steps to prevent suicides and self-harm in their residents. If an ALF resident commits suicide, is the facility responsible for the death? Can a nursing home be sued for allowing its patient to take their own life?
The legal determination of liability for an assisted living suicide depends on a number of factors, outlined below.
If you have more questions on a potential nursing home suicide case, call our compassionate elder abuse attorneys now for a free case consultation.
Foreseeability of the Resident’s Suicide Attempt
If the resident’s suicide was reasonably foreseeable, the assisted living facility or nursing home should have placed safeguards to try to stop it. However, if the suicide seemingly came out of nowhere, it will be hard to prove that the facility should have somehow prevented the death.
Example: If a resident was baker acted for prior suicide attempts and was placed in assisted living for this reason, it should come as no surprise that future attempts are likely. Conversely, if the resident exhibited no signs of depression or suicidal behavior, it is not reasonable to expect a facility to stop an unforeseeable suicide attempt.
Manner of Assisted Living Suicide Death
The way in which the resident commits suicide matters too. Was the manner in which they killed themselves controllable by the ALF? Or was the method of suicide unpreventable by the facility?
Example: If a resident has a history of medication abuse and the facility allows the resident to commit suicide by overdosing prescription pills, this could easily be controlled by the ALF. The fact the manner of the suicide was controllable by the facility will make it easier to prove a civil liability lawsuit. Contrast that with an ALF suicide that occurs off the facility grounds outside the control of the facility. This will be a much tougher wrongful death case to prove in court.
Prevention of Suicide in Assisted Living Facilities, Independent Living Facilities and Nursing Homes
“There’s a real risk of suicide in our settings, and we have a responsibility as professionals to watch for the warning signs and intervene accordingly,” Josh Allen, RN, C-AL, a founder, past president and current board member of the American Assisted Living Nurses Association told those participating in a recent AALNA / National Center for Assisted Living webinar on the topic.
Preventing suicide in assisted living facilities can vary depending on the resident. However, at a minimum, the facility should do the following:
- Supervise at-risk suicidal residents
- Closely monitor medications to prevent overdose
- Acclimate new residents to the facility and into the ALF community
- Recognize signs and symptoms of depression
- Act immediately if you suspect a suicide attempt is imminent, or if you find suicide notes
Why Are Our Seniors Choosing to Take Their Own Life in Long Term Care?
A recent study discusses the reality of long term care facility suicide. There is approximately one suicide in America’s nursing homes and ALF’s per day. This mirrors the national average for suicides in America, which is on the rise. Many commit suicide in long term care because of the poor quality of living, victimization of elder abuse, or due to a terminal diagnosis. Suicide in long term care may surprise the family, but the facility staff should be trained to recognize dangerous signs of depressive suicidal tendencies.
Another, even more darker trend is long term care residents perpetrating murder suicides. This recently occurred in a Delaware ManorCare facility. The nursing home murder suicide was tragically perpetrated by an 82 year old man who entered Manor Care’s Foulk Road facility. Afterwards, nursing home staff conducted a detailed evaluation of both patient and visitors. The Delware Health Care Facilities Association stated that providers must be “diligent about ensuring a safe environment for their patients, residents and staff.” It is the legal duty of all assisted living and skilled nursing facilities to conduct mental health evaluations, specifically screening for homicidal or suicidal tendencies.
Nursing Home Suicide Help
If you are contemplating suicide in a nursing home or assisted living, please speak with a mental health professional immediately. Nothing is worth taking your own life. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat.
Seeking Justice Following a Preventable Assisted Living Suicide
If you lost your loved one due to a preventable suicide in an assisted living facility or nursing home, contact our compassionate and experienced assisted living abuse attorneys today. We understand the way a suicide can uproot a family dynamic and our lawyers have decades of experience handling these kinds of cases in long-term care facility litigation.
Free ALF Suicide Case Evaluation
If you suspect your family member’s suicide was preventable, you may have a case against the facility. Contact our lawyers today to discuss the merits of your case in a 100% free consultation.
Call us now at 1-844-253-8919.
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