Elderly woman died after fall from window on to railing
Published 04/06/2010 | 05:00
A woman with dementia died after falling from the second-floor window of a nursing home on to a five-foot high iron railing.
Maura Looney (82) died from horrific injuries after she squeezed out of a bedroom window of the Care Choice nursing home in Montenotte, Co Cork, at 7.30am on New Year's Day.
At a Cork coroner's inquest yesterday, it emerged that there were no national guidelines for the type of window openings in nursing homes.
Ms Looney -- who had mild dementia as well as advanced bowel cancer -- had earlier repeatedly told care staff that she wanted to go home.
When she was discovered lying on the railing, she was wearing a black coat over her pink pyjamas.
The second floor window of her bedroom -- which only opened nine inches to allow ventilation in the room -- was located directly above the iron railing.
The inquest heard that when a staff member arrived for work that morning and spotted the body impaled on the railing, she initially thought it was a prank by new year revellers.
Nurse Aoife O'Donovan spoke of her horror when she realised that it wasn't a prank , but that the body was that of an elderly patient.
"In my career I was used to dealing with death but finding Maura was the hardest thing I have ever done," she explained.
Cork city coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, was told Ms Looney lived on Congress Road in Turner's Cross, Cork.
She had been admitted by her family to the Care Choice home for two weeks' respite care over the New Year period.
She was admitted to the Montenotte facility at lunchtime on December 31 and had her own bedroom on the second floor.
Ms Looney had attended a New Year's Eve function in the nursing home before being escorted to her bedroom shortly before 7pm, where she started to watch TV.
However, from midnight, she became restless and was found wandering the corridors of the second floor.
She repeatedly told nursing staff that she wanted to go home.
On each occasion, she was brought back to her bedroom. At one point, staff offered her a cup of tea and a chance to chat so as to ease her restlessness.
Nurse Florence O'Donovan said she escorted Ms Looney to her bedroom at 6am and, when she checked on her again at 6.20am, she noted she had fallen asleep.
The nurse checked on the 82-year-old at 7am and saw her still asleep.
However, the alarm was raised at 7.30am when a staff member arriving for duty spotted the body lying on top of the iron railing in front of the home.
An investigation revealed that the right-hand side of the second floor windows could open just nine inches -- but this was apparently sufficient for the elderly woman to squeeze through.
The nursing home involved has now halved the length of the bedroom window openings.
Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster conducted a post-mortem examination on Ms Looney on January 2 and found she died from shock and haemorrhage caused by a deep penetrating wound to her torso.
The wound penetrated her side, her liver, her gut and her chest. Ms Looney suffered multiple broken ribs and a fractured pelvis and arm.
Her lungs had collapsed because of her internal injuries.
The jury returned a narrative verdict that Ms Looney died from shock and haemorrhage consistent with wounds inflicted after being impaled on a railing.
Speaking after the inquest, for the Looney family, Ms Looney's nephew, Tony Fitzgerald, said: "On behalf of my father Tom and my uncles Willie and Teddy, we are all very saddened and shocked by the news from New Year's morning. She was a loving person and is greatly missed. Today brings a certain closure to her passing."