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Fire ants attack unsupervised elderly man at Houston care center

Lawsuit filed for dementia patient who fell from wheelchair at pathway memory care, suffering "Gruesome Injuries" - How can families better protect loved ones

By Tucker Sutherland, editor

Mr. Urso's right hand shows ant stingsAugust 29, 2016 – The reports of elderly people being harmed in care facilities due to neglect or incompetence seems to be a growing, and this case of an 85-year-old man left unsupervised who fell from his wheelchair into a fire ant bed appears to be another example that worries those with family members in care centers.

Remolo Urso was unsupervised outside when his wheelchair turned over on October 27 of last year at Pathway Memory Care at Villa Toscana, which is located in Houston, Texas at 2930 Cypress Woods Medical Dr.

He was hopelessly stranded in a fire ant bed, where he suffered countless stings, according to photographs and his attorneys.

“The injuries to Mr. Urso are gruesome and reflect a dangerous disregard for his safety by Pathways’ staff and a general indifference to his well-being,” according to Beth Janicek, a well-known San Antonio trial lawyer whose firm represents the family and Mr. Urso.

Janicek, a Board Certified in Personal Injury Lawyer, says a lawsuit was filed last week for the family.

She also points out, “Part of a skilled nursing facility standard of care – reflected in state and federal law – is to have an adequate pest control plan in place that keeps common areas free from such dangers as fire ants.”

Pathways states on its website the institution is “Uniquely designed for those with memory loss, Pathways Memory Care encourages maximum freedom and socialization while maintaining an invisible blanket of security and protection.

“At Pathways, every detail is attended to so that residents can relax and enjoy the safety, security and stress-free life our community offers.”

The company certainly failed to live up to the promises of “safety, security and stress-free life” for Mr. Urso, points out Janicek.

Mr. Urso's left hand shows fire ant stingsAndrew Skemp, an attorney with the Janicek Law firm, noted that Mr. Urso was a high fall-risk patient and had fallen several times at the facility prior to the October 27 incident. The bites and stings from this fall into the ant bed caused severe pain and a “rash eruption,” the attorney said.

A red fire ant secures itself to its prey with a pair of clamp like mandibles, according to information from Orkin pest control. “The ant will use its abdominal stinger to inject alkaloid venom in the victim,” Orkin warns. “One ant ‘can deliver multiple stings, pivoting in a circle until it is brushed off or until its victim dies.”

The Orkin reports says fire ants are known for their “aggressive efforts to come from their above-ground nest in huge numbers to sting.”

Care Center in Georgia Settles for $2 Million in Case of Patient Death from Fire Ants: CBS Reports

    The family of a bedridden nursing home patient who died after being bitten by hundreds of fire ants will get almost $2 million under a settlement with the home's owner.
    Georgia-based Mariner Health Care, the nation's third largest long-term health care company, agreed this week to pay Earl Dean Griffith's widow and children $1.875 million, a week before their lawsuit was to be tried.
     "After several years of fighting and denying responsibility despite the overwhelming evidence, (Mariner) went ahead and settled the case," said Chip Barger, the family's attorney.

Link to March 2005 Report

The stings often turn into blisters and cause other negative reactions. The worst of these is life-threatening anaphylaxis, a severe, whole-body reaction “involving dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness or cardiac arrest.”

Urso appears to have been stung on his neck, both arms, chest, groin, legs, knees and feet, according to Skemp.

He adds that Mr. Urso has been removed from Pathways.

“Mr. Urso’s family had trusted Pathways to care for their dad but they violated this trust by neglecting him. They failed to provide the standard care that every member of the community deserves,” Skemp said.

What can families do?

This case is another that raises questions about what families can do to assure the safety and well-being of their helpless relatives left in the care of institutions. Among alternatives open to many is to visit more often and be more aware of what is happening.

Another is to take any opportunity for a greater participation in the activities at the center. Many institutions have advisory boards or committees made up of volunteers, often family members of the residents, where activities and care for the residents are discussed. Too often participation in these groups is very small.

Additionally, it is sometimes helpful that, when visiting the care center, family representatives  make the effort to  speak to key employees. They may, on occasion, volunteer information that can improve the care of the patient.

NOTE: The Janicek Law Firm, mentioned in the case reported in this story, is owned by the daughter of the author of this article, who is also owner of SeniorJournal.com. The law firm is also an advertiser with this website.


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