Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Woman died after care home fall

THE death of an elderly woman who fell down a flight of stairs at a care home near Henley was an accident, a coroner has ruled.

THE death of an elderly woman who fell down a flight of stairs at a care home near Henley was an accident, a coroner has ruled.

The body of Alfreda Aldridge, 84, was discovered at the bottom of a staircase at Huntercombe Hall in Nuffield on the evening of September 26 last year.

An inquest into her death heard that Mrs Aldridge had been diagnosed with a 6cm brain tumour and became easily confused.

She took a lift accessible to patients from the ground to the second floor of the home where the staff quarters were located, instead of the first floor, where her room was.

The hearing at County Hall in Oxford on Tuesday was told the layout of floors was “not significantly different” and she most likely walked down a corridor before falling down the stairs between the second and first floors.

The inquest heard that residents were now only able to take a lift to the first floor and staff had to use a key to enable it to travel to the second floor.

But concerns were raised about residents still accessing the main, central staircase.

Mrs Aldridge, a retired personal assistant lived at the home with her husband David, a retired builder, who died in December.

Paramedics and police were called to the scene on the day of her death but found “no suspicious circumstances”.

A statement from pathologist Professor Ian Roberts said the cause of death was a severe head injury “in keeping with a fall down the stairs” and a meningioma, a type of brain tumour.

A statement by Dr Mark Bish, her GP at the Hart Surgery in Henley, said her tumour was discovered after a CT scan in April 2015 and that it primarily affected her short-term memory.

Mrs Aldridge was admitted to Huntercombe Hall due to deterioration in her memory.

She was admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for surgery on August 17 but there were no intensive care beds available so the operation was not performed.

Dr Bish said: “Following her discharge she began to become more confused but remained coherent.”

He said he had visited her on September 23 and she was well apart from her deteriorating memory.

In his statement, Sgt Tom Mansfield said Mrs Aldridge had been found lying face down at the bottom of a set of stairs linking the first and second floors.

He said: “Mrs Aldridge was known to have to brain tumour and was known to get confused but this did not affect her mobility or behaviour.

“The second floor was the area of staff accommodation and the residents had no reason to go there. Mrs Aldridge is not strong on her feet and therefore she may have pressed the wrong button on the lift and got stuck on the second floor. She may have attempted to walk down or fallen from the stairs.”

The inquest heard she had a “do not resuscitate order” on her, as did many of the residents of the home. This was something that had been discussed with her family.

Frank Cummins, clinical director of Caring Homes Group, which is responsible for Huntercombe Hall, said there were various risk assessments in place for Mrs Aldridge, including a “medium” risk of falls.

“I couldn’t find any evidence that Mrs Aldridge coming to the second floor was a regular occurrence,” he said.

He said stairs were no longer accessible to residents.

Mrs Aldridge’s son Paul, who attended the hearing with his wife Jane, questioned home manager Bernard Boyle about being unable to restrict access to the main stairs and said: “If you are really going to do the job properly you really need to put some barrier there.”

Mr Boyle said the bottom of the staircase was 10ft wide and a number of agencies consulted found it was not a “viable option” to block it off.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Oxford assistant coroner Jeremy Chipperfield said: “Huntercombe Hall, I think, in the intervening period has done quite a lot of work in various areas which were potentially matters of concern.”

After the hearing Mr Aldridge said he believed his mother had blacked out at the top of the stairs.

He said: “We think it was the tumour — she had six months to live anyway. It’s good the home has taken the recommendations on board.”

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