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No Criminal Charges In Saratoga Nursing Home Death

Published January 21, 2013 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney

A Saratoga County nursing home has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing following the death of an 85-year-old resident.

Recently we reported on this incident, in which Fred Decker was found dead in a courtyard outside his room December 22. Initial reports suggested he fell from his second-floor window.

The Ballston Spa Police Department and the state Department of Health conducted an investigation. They found that the victim did not fall but walked out of the facility instead.

Following is from the Albany Times-Union:

The probe determined that Decker, who was frail and used a walker, did not fall from his second-floor window or a rooftop, as first thought, but instead appears to have gotten outside because he knew the bypass alarm code to the locked doors and then boarded an elevator down to the first floor.

Nursing home staff saw Decker in his room during an 11 PM round of bed checks, according to an earlier statement released by the county Board of Supervisors after his death. Employees discovered him missing at 1 AM and located him near a facility door with his walker.

An autopsy revealed that Decker suffered from severe osteoporosis, and he would have had numerous broken bones and fractures had he fallen or dropped even a short distance.

Additionally, the fact that he used a walker made it virtually impossible for him to slip out through the window across a rooftop and down onto the pavement below.

The deceased had resided at the nursing home for nearly four years. His granddaughter is an employee there. He had been moved to a secure wing of the facility because of a tendency to wander.

Investigators determined that staff members sitting at the nurses’ station either could not see down Decker’s hallway or were tending to another resident at the time he escaped. It was not determined if all of the door alarms were working and secure.

Officials said the nursing home cooperated fully with the investigation.

An estimated one to two million Americans are mistreated or injured in a nursing home or care facility each year, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

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