Family members are seeking answers in the death of an 85-year-old Belleville nursing home patient who was found at the bottom of stairs still strapped in her wheelchair. The family of Juanita Simmons wants to know why Midwest Respiratory and Rehabilitation Center did not call police and how Simmons got through the doorway to the stairs. Officials investigating the death of Simmons were first notified of the fatality when they got a call from a Montgomery County funeral home. The director of the funeral home said he was contacted by Simmons’ daughter, who told him, “Mom took a fall.” Deputy Coroner Dean Darnall said he was told that Simmons’ body was found by staff at the nursing home still strapped into a wheelchair and at the bottom of stairs.
Simmons’ granddaughter, Tonya Adams of Villa Hills, said during a telephone interview that staff at the nursing home was negligent in their duties and that the family was “definitely” planning to take legal action. “She had no business at the bottom of a stairway,” Adams said, calling whatever circumstances leading to her grandmother’s body being left unattended “a serious lapse.” Adams said one of the main concerns her family has in the death of Juanita Simmons is why staff at the Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Center on North 17th Street did not contact police when the frail woman’s body was found, and instead called a funeral home located more than an hour away. Procedure in an accidental death at a nursing home usually requires that police and a coroner be immediately notified.
In a recent review of nursing homes across the country, Midwest Respiratory and Rehabilitation received a one-star rating on a five-star scale, and the facility had 36 “health deficiciences” listed.