The Chicago area has been struck by a snap of arctic weather lately. It’s the kind of weather that quickly brings a chill to every part of your body regardless of how quickly you can do what needs to be done and get back to a warm area.
When I read news clippings about a downstate nursing home patient who wandered from a facility into these cruel temperatures, I couldn’t help but cringe as I knew more bad news would follow.
Sadly, I was correct.
The body of the 75-year-old nursing home patient, identified as Aubrey Giles, was found in a creek located just a block away from Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care in Belleville, IL. The elements were simply too much for that man to bear, and a medical examiner has ruled Mr. Giles died from exposure-related hypothermia.
In response to this unfortunate incident, officials from the Illinois Department of Heath have descended upon the Southern Illinois Nursing Home to begin an investigation into matter. Much of the investigation will focus upon Mr. Giles’ care plan created by the facility to best serve the his needs.
Because many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are considered to be elopement risks, I presume the state’s investigation will closely review what type of safeguards were ordered under the care plan for this patient vs. the safeguards (such as door alarms, wanderguards and gps tracking bracelets) that were actually in place at the time Mr. Giles wandered from the facility. In addition to safeguards, I would anticipate most of the staff on duty at the time of Mr. Giles incident would be questioned about their knowledge of his past behavior in addition to the circumstances of the day in question.
While wandering safeguards will indeed be reviewed, according to news reports surrounding this incident, the timeliness of the facilities notification of officials following the known departure of Mr. Giles’ departure from the facility appears to be within the boundries of the law. Amazingly, while officials from Midwest Rehabilitation discovered Mr. Giles missing at three in the afternoon— it was not until 7:30 that evening that the facility notified Department of Health officials. Yet, this scheduling is completely legal.
Moreover, despite the fact that nursing home workers knew their patient with diminished capacities went into the frigid elements, no local police departments were contacted to help in the search for this missing patient– again completely legal under the present laws.
Situations such as this shout the need for state lawmakers to begin to reevaluate the nursing home laws applicable to the tens of thousands vulnerable patients in Illinois whom are completely reliant on facilities for every part of their subsistence. I find that fact that a nursing home can use their own methods to locate a missing patient for 23-hours after they go missing downright shocking. If a similar incident were to occur with a child leaving his home, I have little doubt the the public outcry over such an incident would be deafening.
For laws related to Illinois nursing homes, look here.
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