Hypothermia Death Demonstrates Dangers Of Wandering Episodes During Winter

Wandering in Cold Weather Can Lead to HypothermiaWhile most people are spending their days bundled up to avoid the cold, some senior citizens may be walking outside in below-freezing temperatures because of confusion. In fact, over a three-day stretch, the cold has been blamed for several area deaths.

According to Dr. Walter Hofman – the Montgomery County Coroner – an 84-year-old woman from Collegeville wandered from her nursing home and was found dead the next day. Unfortunately, there was no immediate information on how the woman left the facility undetected or what facility the woman came from.

The problem that wandering poses

Unfortunately, issues with wandering are common among nursing home residents. Especially at these extreme temperatures, it may pose an extremely dangerous threat. Those patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s are at a significantly higher risk.

Every nursing home resident must have his or her own unique and thorough care plan. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to elder care. When creating this plan, it is vitally important to consider the risk of unexplainable absences and wandering. Residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease run the highest risk of wandering and must therefore be monitored at all times. In those cases, it is important to take special precautions, especially because we know that these illnesses may progress at a rapid rate.

These problems may occur when the resident wanders away from the nursing home grounds without supervision or authorization. Residents with cognitive impairments may be confused when they leave the facility. These residents may believe they need to get home to their families, attend school, or go to work.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than half of the nursing home residents suffer from some form of dementia or cognitive impairment. We often associate wandering with dementia and it may happen when a resident travels throughout the nursing home confusedly or aimlessly. This may have terrible consequences, including harm to oneself or others. While wandering in its own right is dangerous enough, the idea of elderly residents leaving their nursing facility during extreme cold weather invites many other dangerous aspects into the equation.

How you can make a difference

Nursing home companies, especially those who operate for profit, may attempt to increase revenue by employing fewer workers than necessary. If there is evidence of consistent and dangerous wandering or elopement, it may be possible to hold the nursing home responsible for elder abuse. A failure to modify the necessary care in order to prevent these incidents from happening poses a serious safety risk.

This is especially painful when basic safeguards such as keeping an attendant at a desk or having a nightly bed check may prevent these issues altogether. If your loved ones suffer injuries or other issues because of elopement or wandering, you may be entitled to compensation. This is not necessarily about receiving a cash settlement, it is about sending a message to the nursing home. A message that the current budget cuts they are implementing are not excusable.


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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric