An 87 year old was admitted to Hillview Nursing and Rehab (a Missouri nursing home) after falling several times at home. The nursing home staff, aware of the falls at home, recommended the use of a lap buddy at all times when the resident was using her wheelchair. A lap buddy is soft restraint or seat belt which is designed to prevent an individual from falling out of a wheelchair or seat.
After several months of using the lap buddy, a nurse determined that it was no longer needed. The Medical Director of the facility agreed to the removal of the lap buddy so long as a body alarm was used. A body alarm makes an audible sound when a resident gets out of the wheelchair. The resident fell several times over the next few weeks but the lap buddy was never used again! The last fall resulted in a head injury and death.
A suit was filed against the nursing home alleging the failure to take reasonable steps to insure the safety of the resident by using the lap buddy when it was clearly needed. The case was heard by an arbitrator and the resident’s family was awarded over $750,000 in damages.