Negligence: Elderly Dementia Patients

Elderly persons who are disoriented or cognitively impaired are vulnerable when mixed with the general population as they have a penchant to wander.

This lawsuit is designed to ensure that nursing homes preserve the invulnerability and dignity of our elders during this difficult chapter of their life.

Although there is an undoubtful extent of memory loss associated with aging, many elements of dementia exist. Alzheimer’s is the most generic form of dementia. It is a cognitive disorder that can affect one’s activities of daily living through memory loss and psychological changes and can thus lead to aimless wandering.

Benefits of Special Care Units

Dementia units, Memory units, Reminiscence Neighborhoods, or Homestead if you will, are designed to provide a calm and secure environment where well trained medical staff can cater to the needs associated with Dementia. In these units, activities are tailored specific to Dementia, the staff are trained to control precarious behaviours, and residents get an overall greater support. Dementia units allegedly reduce the risk of wandering elders by appointing protocols that demand assessing of residents on admission, reevaluating behaviors intermittently to identify potential wanderers, implementing continuous supervision and granting a safe and hazard free environment.

A study based on Statewide data from Minnesota reported Dementia units to impinge the quality of life of our elders. The study conducted face to face interviews for the State and found higher quality of life in resident comfort, autonomy, purposeful activities, and the overall environment as opposed to cognitively impaired residents in common nursing homes.

Dangers of leaving a Demented person in less safe Environment

Elopment is defined as the act where one wanders away from home or or from a skilled nursing facility. It is the most alarming form of wandering as it has resulted in death. Studies report that up to 21 percent of nursing home residents wander and approximately one in five elders with dementia wander.

A wandering incident report from 2013 involved an assisted living elder who eloped from the safety of Four Winds Lodge in Wisconsin. As reported by the associated press, the corpse of a 93 year old woman was located on a sidewalk near the facility a day after she was last seen at the site. The medical investigator determined cause of death to be related to hyperthermia.

Despite its interpretation, wandering can serve as an extreme safety risk to elders with Dementia and as you can see it can boost the possibility of injury or death.

Therein lies the problem; most Skilled Nursing facilities lack Dementia units and therefore leave a mentally deteriorating elder mixed with the general population. Countless incidents of wandering allegedly involve an elder simply cruising past the front desk of the facility. Nursing home institutions use justifications such as staffing shortage and insufficient funds to plea indigent supervision of our elders. They then follow this by allegedly using restraints, be it chemical or physical to prevent aimless wandering. However, restraints can at times contribute to the elders need to wander.

Who is Responsible

It is atrocious that an elderly patient can go missing without the knowledge of the facility that they were entrusted in. Nursing homes personnel are bound to recognize when an elder patient shows signs of aimless wandering and should therefore commit primary care and attention in order to keep him/her safe. Simple security protocols such as nightly bed checks or having a front desk attendant, may allegedly  get bypassed by care facilities as they attempt to cut costs by anchoring their units with the lowest number of employees. Reports present the optimum approach to prevent aimless wandering is not to prevent the actual wandering but rather to allow the elder to wander in a secure and safe environment where supervision is guaranteed.

Contact a Lawyer

The care facility entrusted with the care of the elder patient is compelled to affirm that the elder person is unable to wander aimlessly without oversight. The deficiency in keeping the elder from wandering into dangerous areas or off the facility premises and into harm’s way is a punishable offense. It is an infraction that carries fines where the nursing home is contracted to pay damages to the elder or their respective families.

If a loved one has been exposed to dangerous elements from wandering, contact our investigating lawyer now for a free case evaluation.