Bed RailsWaynesburg, PA- Police are investigating the death of a 94 year-old woman who was being cared for at a Waynesburg nursing home.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Irene Sansone was found dead early Saturday morning after her head got stuck between her mattress and bedrail after she fell out of her bed. Authorities believe she was trying to get out of her bed when she slipped. Greene County Coroner Gregory P. Rohanna said the elderly woman was not strong enough to free herself.

Her cause of death has been ruled “accidental asphyxiation” and now the Golden Living Center is under fire.

Sansone’s niece, Stephanie Jupina, believes her elderly aunt’s death was preventable and they failed to protect her.

“I think this is a serious case of neglect,” Ms. Jupina told the Pittsburg Gazette.

Executive director of the nursing home, Jackie Hainer said the facility has a 24-hour staff, but would not tell the Gazette the last time Sansone was checked before her death. She also refused to reveal how often staff at the facility conduct overnight bed checks.

The nursing home issued this statement:

“We extend our sincerest condolences to the family of Ms. Sansone. This is an unfortunate event and we are conducting our own investigation into this matter. As reported by the Greene County Coroner’s Office, the event has been deemed an accident. While we remain focused on delivering quality health care to our patients and residents, our investigation is ongoing and we continue to report the results to the appropriate regulatory agencies.”

The Gazette reported that the Golden Living Center was cited for several “minimal harm” deficiencies but has had fewer defficiencies than that state average. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the facility a five-star rating in their last survey of nursing homes.

The incident is being investigated by the Pennsylvania Health Department. The Golden Living Center will conduct an independent investigation, as well.

Bed rails are supposed to prevent injuries and deaths, but sometimes, as this case demonstrates, these rails can lead to serious in injury or death. Nursing home residents, who are smaller, or have cognitive disorders, such as dementia, are more prone to bed rail injuries. These patients tend to be too confused or too weak to free themselves if they get caught between the bed and the rails. Patients can also be seriously injured if they climb over a bedrail and fall onto the floor.

A nursing home should be aware of the dangers posed by bedrails, and should regularly check on their patients to prevent accidents like these. Whether or not the Golden Living Center is culpable for Sansone’s death has yet to be determined, but if they are they could face violations and a civil suit.

Nursing home abuse attorneys help the elderly and their families get justice if they are harmed, mistreated or neglected while in the care of a long-term facility. With legal assistance, nursing home abuse victims can get compensation for their pain and emotional distress.