State says retirement home is at fault for resident's death - KPTV - FOX 12

State says retirement home is at fault for 88-year-old resident freezing to death

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LONGVIEW, WA (KPTV) -

The state has found a Longview retirement home was responsible for the death of one of its residents.

FOX 12 has confirmed that DSHS has revoked the license of Canterbury Gardens after looking into how an 88-year-old woman with dementia froze to death under their supervision.

State investigators say Canterbury Gardens, a dementia specialty care facility, is at fault for Norma Sheldon's death, and the facility's practices have put its 61 other patients at risk.

Sheldon was found by staff in the outdoor courtyard of Canterbury gardens around 1 a.m. on Dec. 6. An autopsy showed that the cause of death was hypothermia. The temperature at the time she was found was 28 degrees, according to the medical examiner.

The facility claimed that they perform head counts on all patients, on the hour, every hour. But in this case, the state says staff only checked on Norma Sheldon at 11 p.m., but missed her midnight check.

It was during their 1 a.m. count that they realized she wasn't in her bed. Employees found her frozen to death in the courtyard, laying on her side, according to state documents.

DSHS said state law doesn't require the home to have locks on the courtyard's doors, but said alarms are often used in place of a lock to keep residents safe.

Investigators say Canterbury Gardens has alarms, but on the night Norma Sheldon died, staff told them the alarms to the courtyard were "not on."

Investigators also found when they were turned on later, some were found to be defective, and one door didn't have an alarm at all.

Don Sheldon, Norma Sheldon's husband of 68 years, spoke with FOX 12 after her death. He said his wife had been known to wander at the retirement home before, and has even injured herself doing so.

He said, however, that nothing would ever prepare him to receive such painful news like this.

"They called me and told me they found my wife in the fetal position frozen" Don Sheldon said. "It's a hard thing to stomach."

He's coping with her death the best that he can, but is missing his wife dearly.

"I have so many memories at night. I can just close my eyes and flip my mind to whatever chapter I want, and I can just remember her. I see her as beautiful as she is, and she's never changed in my mind," Don Sheldon said.

Canterbury Gardens has 28 days to appeal the state's findings, according to investigators.

In the meantime, the state will not allow them to take in any new patients, and they've placed them under a list of restrictions, including keeping a staff member in the courtyard at all times when residents are there.

Canterbury Gardens issued this statement to FOX 12 late Friday night:

"Canterbury Gardens has been caring for seniors for over 17 years, and we will continue to devote efforts so that all of our residents are cared for and safe. We are completely aware of the DSHS concerns and we are already in process of taking every measure necessary to satisfy the issue.

The revocation process will be deferred pending an appeal, and Canterbury Gardens will have a full opportunity to respond and resolve this matter with DSHS.  We are fully prepared to do everything necessary to earn the department's trust in our ability to ensure the safety of our residents. We are confident that we can resolve their concerns and continue to operate for many years to come."

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