Wandering in a potentially deadly problem for nursing home patients with dementia and other medical conditions that make them unable to appreciate the dangers around them.
While not a common problem, wandering from nursing homes puts particularly vulnerable patients at risk for harming themselves when they find themselves in the outside world with no one to look after them.
Just 200 feet from the doors to the nursing home where she was a patient, a 92-year woman left the facility without the knowledge of the facility staff and managed to fall into a shallow puddle nearby and drown. Authorities from the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation have issued a $20,000 fine against, Bradford Village of Kernersville, the facility that was to be supervising the woman.
In the course of the agencies investigation, it was determined that the facility made numerous errors when it came to ensuring the safety of the woman. In particular, the investigation revealed:
- The staff at the facility failed to conduct regular inspections of the woman’s room to help track her whereabouts.
- Numerous code violations regarding errors made the physical environment, personal care and supervised.
- Door alarms at the facility were de-activated to allow staff to easily exit the facility to smoke cigarettes.
- Supervisors at the facility unaware of safety protocols.
- Staff failing to appreciate the fact that the woman suggested that she wanted to leave the facility earlier in the evening
Certainly, tragedies such as this, are reminder of the necessity of all facilities that care for patients who have dementia or other medical conditions that make them unable to appreciate their surrounding dangers.
Having worked on a number of nursing home wandering cases, I always encourage families to report the situation to the state department of health so an into the incident can be investigated in a timely manner.
Given the fact that many nursing homes have extraordinarily high staff turnover rates, conducting a timely investigation and obtaining statements from staff is especially important. Frequently, I cite these early investigations as a primary reason why some cases can be resolved early on as opposed to protracted litigation.