FARGO — A memory care facility where two residents got into a fight days before one of the men died has changed its policy on when to seek medical attention for patients.
Maple View Memory Care at 4552 36th Ave. S. in Fargo decided shortly after the altercation that it will send any resident who is injured in a fight to a medical facility instead of deciding on a case-by-case basis, according to a statement issued by the facility Wednesday, June 26.
The change in policy was made after Donard Thue Jr., an 84-year-old resident who was punched in the head by 70-year-old Michael Lyman on March 29 at Maple View, died April 3 at a hospice facility.
Thue grabbed and pushed Lyman before the punch, which caused Thue to fall to the ground, according to surveillance video of the fight obtained by The Forum.
The facility said in its statement it was "deeply saddened that an unfortunate incident occurred on March 29 resulting in the death of one of our residents.”
"We do everything that we can to keep our residents as safe as we possibly can," Maple View Director Jordyn Haider told The Forum Wednesday.
Maple View's policy previously directed staff to separate residents involved in an altercation, monitor them for injuries and refer them to a medical facility if deemed serious, the statement said. In the March 29 case, employees followed protocol, and the facility cooperated with police, Haider said.
The Forum investigated Thue’s death after Fargo Police Chief David Todd mentioned last week it was the focus of a homicide investigation. Police learned of the death from a coroner, who was informed about the incident from a funeral home that was handling Thue’s body.
Fargo police did not initially publicize the death because it was first reported as an unattended death, and “there was no concern for public safety,” a police spokeswoman said.
After the fight, Maple View staff assessed Thue and Lyman and determined both were all right, according to police reports. Both woke up the next day, but Thue was later found unresponsive and taken to a hospital, where doctors determined he was not treatable.
The men both had cognitive issues and had been aggressive toward each other in the past, according to police reports. Diseases like dementia can bring about unpredictable behavior in patients that can change in a second's notice, Haider said.
No charges were filed in the case after prosecutors determined neither man was in a culpable state of mind. Thue died from a severe brain injury, but a medical examiner did not conclude the death was a homicide, instead listing the manner of death as "undetermined," according to a letter from the Cass County State's Attorney's Office.
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Maple View said it followed North Dakota Department of Health requirements regarding the incident. Facilities like Maple View are not required to report fights or deaths to the Health Department, said Bruce Pritschet, director for the agency's health facilities division.
Maple View policy does not dictate whether the facility needs to report fights or deaths to the Health Department because state law does not require it to do so, Haider said. Staff did not face disciplinary actions because of the March 29 fight.
It’s unclear if Thue's death will spark an investigation by the Health Department or how long that would take if one were to happen. The state agency doesn't make inspections public until after staff conducts visits and a correction plan has been approved, if necessary, said Darlean Bartz, health resources section chief for the health facilities division.
The division had not heard about Thue's death until a Forum reporter asked about it, Pritschet said. The incident was of huge concern for the department, Bartz said, but she couldn't comment on whether an investigation would ensue.
Lyman was supposed to be on 24/7 watch when the fight happened, but nurses sitting at the table down the hallway didn’t see the confrontation, according to police reports. Maple View staff ran toward the residents when they heard a crash, which was Thue hitting the ground.
The 24/7 directive was not required by state law, nor was it recommended by a medical professional, Haider said.
Staff thought Lyman had gone to bed before the fight, according to police reports. Haider noted her staff was a few steps away and was able to respond to the fight quickly.