A RETIREMENT home failed to take a simple precaution that would have prevented a 90-year-old woman from jumping from one of its second floor rooms, York Crown Court heard.
Dora Strickland died a few days after she was found below the second floor flat at Red Lodge where she and her 90-year-old husband, Jack, had lived for five months, Tom Gent, prosecuting, said.
Less than a month earlier, a doctor had warned management at the New Earswick retirement complex to keep a close eye on her after she made comments about taking her own life, but those who had day to day care of her didn’t know this, the barrister alleged.
The death exposed failures in the systems at the New Earswick retirement community that should have protected all its residents from falling or jumping through windows either deliberately, by accident, or when confused, he claimed.
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He was opening the prosecution for City of York Council against Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust which runs the Red Lodge community where elderly residents can live in supported self-accommodation with all meals, laundry facilities and other services included.
“The risk that residents might develop vulnerabilities or develop suicidal thoughts is neither fanciful or trivial,” he alleged.
“The investigation into Mrs Strickland’s death showed, the prosecution allege, that there were failings in the defendant’s safety systems that should have been designed to protect its residents from exposure to unnecessary risks.”
He claimed after the death, the trust had restrictors installed on its windows to prevent them opening more than six inches without the use of a key and a policy put in place to control which residents could have keys to their windows.
This showed, he alleged, that there was a reasonably practical step the trust could have taken to prevent the death.
The trust denies failure to protect the safety of the home’s residents and failure to have and proper risk assessment in place regarding its windows.
In a written statement, Mrs Strickland’s daughter Diane Parker said her mother and her father Jack, a retired Nestle Rowntree foreman, moved into the complex in August 2011 after selling their home for 56 years in Newlands Park Drive, off University Road, York.
Mrs Strickland was never happy there, though they had excellent care from the staff, said Mrs Parker, and therefore Mr Strickland was not happy either.
She said her mother told her about going to sleep there: “She would pray they wouldn’t wake up.”
Mrs Parker spent the afternoon of October 31 with them and the family enjoyed the time together.
“When we left, we felt a bit more positive for them,” the daughter’s statement said.
But on the next day, she had a call from the home that her mother had jumped out of her window. She had suffered multiple injuries and died at York Hospital 11 days later.
Care assistant Victoria Hurley said she heard screaming at 10.30am on November 1 and had gone straight to the Stricklands’ flat from the ground floor staff room.
There she saw Mr Strickland telling a neighbour: “My wife jumped out of the window”. She took care of him.
Mrs Parker said her mother told her how she had jumped. She did not write a suicide note.
Mr Gent alleged that staff had Mrs Strickland seen by a doctor in October after she told a member of staff about to go on holiday “I may not be here when you come back.”
She told the doctor her remarks had been “made in jest” and he decided she was not overtly depressed or suicidal.
The doctor told the home they needed to monitor her closely.
But a care assistant who noted in in a daily care record that Mrs Strickland had said she was “going to jump out of a bedroom window” a couple of weeks later was unaware of the doctor’s advice, alleged Mr Gent.
The home’s general risk assessment giving precautions to be taken against residents’ slipping or falling did not include the risk posed by windows, although it did include floor surfaces, glass sections of doors, steps, stairs, tiles falling from roofs and other potential hazards.
Nor did the risk assessments in place for each resident include jumping or falling from windows as a potential hazard.
The trial continues.