Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Discusses the Tragic Losses of Nursing Home Residents Who Wander Away
Families entrust the care of their older relatives to nursing homes because they believe that nursing homes are safe places where their loved ones can be cared for and kept safe around the clock. While this is often true, some of the health conditions which often affect older adults, particularly Alzheimer's and dementia, can cause certain individuals to develop a tendency to wander off. These conditions certainly make it difficult for family members to provide care for these individuals at home, and they continue to pose challenges to the nursing homes that are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for them.
While some nursing homes are able to provide a more secure environment for their residents than others, if an individual has a tendency to wander before they are placed in a nursing home, they are still at risk for wandering when they are in the care of a nursing home, even if they are placed in a facility that is specifically designed to care for residents who have Alzheimer's or dementia. There have been many tragic losses associated with wandering. One Alzheimer's patient at a nursing home in Texas wandered outside on a very cold night. He died of hypothermia. A similar situation occurred this winter in Ohio, when a woman wandered away from a nursing home and died from hypothermia. Last year in New York, a woman whose pain medications caused her to be prone to wandering left a nursing home in Manhattan. She wandered out onto a roof, and she died when she fell off of the roof after being startled by a police officer who had come to help her.
Losses that result from nursing home wandering are absolutely tragic. Nursing homes are responsible for the care of those whose care has been entrusted to them. Each resident's needs are different. For example, some residents need a lot of medical care, while others just require supervision. One reason why some Alzheimer's and dementia patients are able to wander off is that many of them are able-bodied and in fairly good health. It is the lack of adequate supervision that can ultimately prove fatal for some of them.
Nursing homes that provide care for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia can take steps to reduce the risk that residents may wander away. Promoting a continued awareness among nursing home staff regarding which residents need extra supervision can help to ensure that more eyes are watching those residents more often. Physical safeguards like alarms and locks on doors and windows can prevent wandering and can also alert staff to attempted escapes. Technology is also becoming available which can track nursing home residents on GPS by using sensors imbedded in the insoles of their shoes. Some nursing homes do make comprehensive efforts to ensure that residents do not wander off, but chronic understaffing at other facilities can leave residents vulnerable to the dangers of being able to wander away without being noticed for a while.
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