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Assisted-living facility resident died after swallowing chemical cleaner

The Duluth facility has been found responsible for the maltreatment of the resident.

An assisted-living facility in Duluth has been found responsible for the "maltreatment" of a resident who died after swallowing chemical cleaner.

A Minnesota Department of Health investigation found that Westwood of Duluth, an independent living facility that's part of the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth, made errors that contributed to the client's death.

The resident died three days after consuming a "caustic substance," which caused severe burns to the esophagus and stomach.

Westwood, the investigation found, "failed to implement safety precautions when the client had history of climbing over the kitchen gate," and "failed to otherwise secure chemical cleaners."

The male resident suffered from a form of dementia and had impaired judgement and cognition as a result of his condition.

He was however able to walk independently and was known to frequently step over the locked gate into the kitchen, where he would eat and drink foods and liquids that were left unsecured.

On the morning of the ultimately fatal injury, the resident came out of the kitchen holding a cup of liquid which he handed to an assistant, who noted he looked nauseous.

It turns out he'd consumed chemical cleaner that had been left unsecured in a kitchen cabinet under a sink.

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He then proceeded to vomit as he got back to his room, at which point he was sent to hospital, where medical staff realized he had suffered horrific injuries that they knew would prove fatal.

He was moved to comfort care at the hospital, before dying.

A finding of "neglect" was substantiated against Westwood, which in a statement to the Duluth News Tribune said it grieves with the resident's family.

"We have a long tradition of quality care and have taken this situation very seriously. We immediately launched an internal investigation, reported the incident to all appropriate agencies and cooperated with their investigations. Across our campus, we have evaluated and implemented additional safety and security measures to protect our residents."

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