Very few cases frustrate me more than when a patient wanders from the safety of a nursing home or assisted living facility to encounter an situation that they are ill-equipped for resulting in a serious injury or their death. The overwhelming majority of individuals involved in these episodes are people with advanced cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s who simply have no business leaving the safety of the facility without supervision. The fact that these patients generally walk right out of the front door of a facility into the outside world demonstrates how little oversight many of these facilities provide to their patients.
Another death of an assisted living patient
The most recent wandering incident involves an assisted living patient who wandered from the safety of Four Winds Lodge in Wisconsin just last week. According to reports from the Associated Press, the body of the 93-year-old woman was found on a sidewalk near the facility a day after staff at the facility last saw her. A medical examiner has determined her death to be related to hypothermia related to the exposure to the elements.
Lack of oversight & lack of a plan to locate a resident
If the fact that many wandering episodes literally involve a patient walking past the front desk of a facility (with or without the knowledge of the staff) doesn’t frustrate you enough (after all anyone can make an error, right?) perhaps you’re like me and find it completely abhorrent that in the situation described above– both that the patient went missing for a long period of time seemingly without any notice on the part of the facility. Equally troubling to me is the fact that no real plan of action was implemented when the facility recognized that the patient was missing.
More than enough blame to go around
As an attorney who has represented families in wandering cases involving catastrophic injuries and fatalities, I commonly identify a systemic breakdown that both allowed the individual to wander from the facility– and similarly go unnoticed and generally not a sufficient response on the part of the facility. When– and if errors are made on the part of a facility, there should be some type of plan in place for locating the individual with staff from the facility or assistance from law enforcement officials. Considering that many of these people are elderly and simply incapable of walking great distances, a prompt reaction should theoretically help in locating the patient before they suffer any harm.