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Inquest told bracket holding wardrobe to wall at Watford nursing home failed
A woman who suffered from dementia died after a wardrobe fell on top of her in a Watford nursing home.
Claire Hughes was born in Edgware in 1946 and died six days before her 65th birthday, on December 23 last year.
She was found lying underneath a wardrobe in her bedroom after a bracket holding it to the wall failed.
At an inquest into her death today, psychologist Dr Mardell confirmed that Mrs Hughes had early onset dementia, and was being cared for in the Chase Care Centre, in Printers Avenue.
Marjorie Blackwood, a registered nurse and unit manager at the home, explained that part of Mrs Hughes's condition made her "obsessed" with clothing.
She would put on layer after layer and would resist having them removed, which could lead to overheating or present a trip hazard.
She said: "When Claire was admitted she was restless, agitated and would not eat or drink. She needed a lot of care and attention.
"She was obsessed with clothes and would over-dress. She knew her clothes and if she saw any of them in the laundry she would pull them off the rail."
Her wardrobe was locked by a chain and padlock provided by her husband Christopher, a retired company director, to prevent her from opening it when left alone in her room.
Ms Blackwood said on December 23 last year, she was taking Mrs Hughes' medicine and some orange juice to her room.
She said: "When I pushed the door open I could see the wardrobe lying on top of her. I screamed, called for help and pushed the emergency button."
An ambulance was called while CPR was administered, but by the time paramedic Vivienne Yendell arrived, it was already too late.
Pathologist Dr Korestoff concluded the weight of the furniture would have restricted Mrs Hughes' ability to breathe, and named the cause of death as compressive asphyxia.
Ms Blackwood said: "I was shocked and saddened. During her time with us she had improved so much and I had built up a rapport with her and her family."
Sandra Dias, a Health and Safety Executive inspector was called to Ms Hughes' room to inspect the fallen wardrobe.
She found that the nursing home's furniture, which was installed five years ago, was secured to the wall using screws and an L shaped bracket.
The screw holding the bracket to the wall had only penetrated the plasterboard, not the masonry behind, and the holes in the wall were larger than the screw.
The bracket was found still attached to the wall, and had failed at the point where it was fixed to the wardrobe.
The left hand door of the wardrobe had also been partially removed by the force of Mrs Hughes pulling on it.
The home's wardrobes are now secured with longer screws that are fixed into the concrete wall, and the point where it attaches to the wardrobe has been reinforced with wood.
Coroner Edward Thomas recorded an accidental death, and added: "None of you would know the wall-plug didn't go into concrete.
"Claire's problem was unusual and when the wardrobes were fixed to the wall it would have been with the purpose of not falling over.
"With DIY, we all sometimes put things in not quite as secure as they should be."
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