Family of Woman Who Died at Roseville Assisted Living Facility Retains Lawyer

Ada Yakal Photo: Courtesy of family
Ada Yakal

October 19, 2017 10:55 AM

The family of a woman who died when her neck became trapped between a bed and a physical therapy pole at a Roseville assisted living facility has retained an attorney and is considering legal action.

An attorney for the family of 88-year-old Ada Yakal, who was found dead Dec. 28 by staff at Sunrise Assisted Living in Roseville, said the family aims to determine whether a Minnesota Department of Health investigation finding the facility was negligent in the death amounts to a violation of state law. 

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"If in fact Sunrise did really violate state law, the rules, it would be appropriate for them to be brought to justice, and they should be held responsible," attorney Andrew Gross said Wednesday. 

Yakal had been prescribed a therapy pole to assist with getting in and out of bed, which the facility installed closer to the bedside than the manufacturer's warning recommended.

The vertical pole was affixed to the floor and the ceiling about a fists-width from the bed, the health department's report showed.

RELATED: Health Department: Roseville Facility Neglected Resident in Apparent Suffocation Death

Facility staff checked on Yakal at 9 p.m. on the evening of the incident, and found her safe in bed. At 12:30 a.m., staff found Yakal not breathing with her neck trapped between the bed and the pole. Staff called 911, moved the bed to free Yakal and began CPR until emergency medical services took over, the report says. 

An EMS report said the resident had blood under the skin of the face and was bleeding from the mouth. Yakal's death certificate indicated she had died of Alzheimer's dementia, a contention Gross said indicated a doctor didn't properly look into her death. 

Gross said Yakal's family requested the therapy pole because Yakal did not like a mechanical transfer device the facility had been using. Sunrise worked with the family to find a pole, even suggesting against a pole the family was inclined to purchase, Gross said. 

The family purchased the recommended pole, and Sunrise staff installed it eight days prior to Yakal's death. A physical therapy team working with Yakal determined it was safe for Yakal to use. 

"There's obviously a lot that we still want to find out, and figure out why the Sunrise facility installed this thing without looking at the manufacturing requirements," Gross said. 

Gross said that Sunrise should have known the installation of a pole that close to the bed would be dangerous. He wants to determine what actions, if any, the health department plans to take against the facility.

"Sunrise is a national chain, and they know the controversy about the bed rail, so they know that when you put these things that close to the bed it could be dangerous," said Gross, referring to nationwide instances of patients suffocating after becoming trapped in bedside rails.

Gross says facilities are now required to get a doctor's permission before installing those rails.

A health department spokesman said that under the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act, a punishment isn't imposed on a facility found negligent unless the offense is repeated. 

The health department's report found the allegation of neglect on the part of Sunrise was substantiated, in part, because it didn't have a policy in place regarding the placement of such transfer poles. It was unclear whether the facility has instituted a policy, or whether it took any corrective action following the incident. 

A Sunrise spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In a statement Tuesday, Sunrise said it was surprised by and disagreed with the MDH findings, and that it would "follow up with the department accordingly."
 

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Michael Oakes

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