An 85-year-old resident of the Maplewood Manor nursing home was found dead on the county-run facility’s grounds on Saturday, Dec. 22.
Authorities said it appears Carlton Decker climbed out of the window of his private room sometime between staff bed checks at 11 p.m. Friday evening and 1 a.m. Saturday morning. He was discovered missing by staff at the 1 a.m. bed check and located after a search of the nursing home’s grounds. He was declared deceased at Saratoga Hospital.
Temperatures were in the high 30s Friday evening and early Saturday morning.
“We’re still investigating the incident,” said Diane Brown, the administrator for Maplewood Manor. “We don’t know if alarms went off or not. When everything is completed, we will have more information to provide.”
Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth, who is on the county Public Health Committee, expressed her concern over the incident.
“This is a huge tragedy and some of us are mortified,” said Southworth. “The question is, what happened? We need to find that out. You want to do everything in your power to make sure nothing like this never, ever happens again.”
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy met with members of the Village of Ballston Spa Police Department on Monday, Dec. 24. Murphy said Decker had been a resident of Maplewood Manor for several years, and staff had found him in an exterior courtyard near a door.
An autopsy conducted Monday ruled the cause of death as a heart attack, but the official autopsy report and toxicology results are pending. Toxicology results typically take roughly 90 days to be returned.
Authorities originally thought Carlton may have exited his room through his second story window and onto the roof of a first floor wing beneath, but investigators are now following up on a number of different leads. Murphy did not discuss specifics, though.
`It is customary in the case of any unusual death to request that a law enforcement agency conduct an investigation,” Murphy said in a statement. “We owe it to Mr. Carlton and his family to carefully examine how exactly he got from his room to the courtyard. I suspect this and many more questions will be answered as we proceed.”
Trials and tribulations at home
The tragedy comes at a time of transition for the nursing home. The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted last month to privatize Maplewood Manor by forming an LDC after years of operating it with a budget deficit totaling in the millions.
The home is still also housing some unexpected guests. A Dec. 2 fire at the House of Good Shepherd in Malta caused 32 residents to be temporarily displaced to Maplewood Manor, and 20 are still in residence there in a wing that was previously closed by the county to save money. The County has been charging The House of Good Shepherd approximately $44 a day for the care of the displaced residents.
Although Brown said no situation like this has occurred before, Maplewood has transfer agreements with other facilities.
“We’ve actually had an agreement with The House of Good Shepherd since 2003,” said Brown. “This has been in effect, but we’ve never had to use one before.”
The decision to close the wing was not without debate. Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, who is also on the Public Health Committee, made no attempt to hide her concerns.
“There is no business model that anyone can come up with to explain why this was necessary to close this wing before the LDC is enacted,” she said. “None of this is being explained. There is something more to the story.”
Finally, the county recently budgeted $105,865 to have Stilsing Electric decommission and remove a co-generation system installed in 2002. It will also reconnect the facility to National Grid. The three generators had been installed at no cost to the county by Siemans Building Technologies.
Now, a consultant engineer said a study concluded it makes sense economically to decommission the boilers. According to the report, the county will save about $178,000 over three years by removing the boilers. The cost of the decommissioning will come out of Maplewood Manor’s budget.