|June Alice Thompson was 92 years old when she died in October 2017 at The Commons on Marice in Eagan. Her daughter described her as a “fiery redhead” who loved animals, dancing, golfing, singing, and fishing. (Courtesy of Debbie Singer).|
But Commons on Marice, a senior living community in Eagan, hadn’t noticed because staff had neglected to check on Thompson for two days, according to allegations in a state Health Department report released Tuesday.
Commons on Marice said Tuesday it has appealed the findings.
“Our hearts go out to this resident’s family and friends and we are deeply sorry for their loss,” executive director David Salmon said in a statement. “As a senior living community, we sometimes have residents pass away while living with us, and our intent is to always handle those events with respect and sensitivity.”
Singer said she was pleased with the state’s findings.
The Health Department alleges that while Thompson’s death was most likely natural, Commons on Marice failed to complete the daily checks the privately operated facility advertises and did not notice Thompson’s death for two days. The name of the victim and her daughter were included in the Eagan Police Department report on the incident, but not in the state report.
Thompson had terminal esophageal cancer and was classified as “assisted living,” but she was independent enough to use her own feeding tube and administer her own medications, the police report said.
“Her condition was changing, but she was incredibly intelligent and vibrant, and she was very in tune to what was going on in the world,” Singer said. “She would listen to politics on both sides, and she had high hopes for the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. She would discuss their plays and knew who was being traded.”
“I love you and I’ll see you in a couple of days,” Singer and her mother told each other before Singer left.
A housekeeper arrived as the family was leaving. Thompson told the housekeeper she was excited to meet the housekeeper’s children at a Halloween party later that evening. She had decorated her walker for the event — as she always did for holidays — Singer said.
When the housekeeper left in the afternoon, Thompson was standing in the kitchen, the state report said.
“See you later,” Thompson told the housekeeper. The housekeeper was possibly the last person to see Thompson alive, the police report said.
Singer returned on Oct. 26 to find her mother in a reclining chair with the footrest extended, leaning in horizontal position. The shades were not closed, the lights had not been turned on, and the newspaper — dated Oct. 24 — was folded on the left side of Thompson along with a pair of eyeglasses. It was immediately evident to Singer that her mother was dead, the state report said.
“I just knew something was wrong because she never missed her daily newspaper,” Singer said. “There were all kinds of indications that she didn’t die peacefully.”
Thompson’s death appeared to be natural, according to the medical examiner. Her death certificate lists her time of death as 6 p.m. Oct. 26, 2017 — when she was found.
The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office did not conduct an autopsy because Thompson had a terminal illness, the office said. Although there were still some unanswered questions about the death, the office did not categorize it as accidental, suicidal or homicidal, a spokesperson said.
An investigator narrowed down the time of Thompson’s death to between 3 and 7 p.m. Oct. 24, the police report said.
The Commons on Marice functions more as an apartment building with daily check-ins by staff than as a nursing home. Thompson had been living there for more than four years, and received additional hospice care visits twice weekly from Allina Health.
The facility had a daily “I’m OK” program, used to document that each client was checked on daily by a staff member. Once clients were seen or called each day, they received check marks by their names on a client roster kept in the receptionist’s desk.
Commons on Marice could not provide the state with documentation that Thompson had been checked on either Oct. 24 or Oct. 25. She had an “I’m OK” daily check for Oct. 26th, but the state said it was falsely documented because the client was no longer alive.
A senior leader at Commons on Marice told investigators that since the incident, the facility had implemented a new process for the “I’m OK” checks.
“Since this incident, we immediately reviewed our existing policies and procedures and strengthened our process for conducting resident welfare checks,” Salmon said. “The care our residents receive is our top priority.”
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State faults Eagan assisted living facility after resident’s body apparently not discovered for 2 days