An assisted living facility was sued for negligence after a resident with dementia was discovered lying on train tracks and
suffering from cold exposure eight hours after wandering off during a
group field trip to a local high school concert.
The woman's guardian filed the suit against the assisted living facility and the home's activity
director following the Dec. 2, 2007 incident.
The woman suffered from various psychological and
physical conditions, severe dementia and Alzheimer's disease and
required full-time supervision by staff, according to the lawsuit.
The home's activity director and an assistant took between
seven and 10 residents to a concert at a high school, the suit said. After arriving at the high school, the woman wandered away unnoticed and
was found approximately eight hours later just one mile away from the
high school, lying on train tracks with visible injuries she had
suffered from falling down and from being exposed to cold temperatures
for an extended amount of time, the suit said. For more, read the story.
A mobile, dependent, cognitively impaired patient should never be
permitted to wander or elope undetected and unsupervised. A nursing
home or assisted living facility must recognize the risk of wandering
or eloping and take immediate steps to ensure the patient’s safety.
Staff should be educated and warned about the patient’s risk of
wandering or eloping. The nursing home or assisted living facility
should also use electronic alarms that will notify staff immediately
when the patient leaves the facility or a safe area in or around the
Elopement occurs when a patient who lacks safety awareness leaves a
nursing home or assisted living facility or a safe area within or
outside the facility without the knowledge of the facility’s staff and
without proper supervision. A patient who elopes is at risk of heat or
cold exposure, dehydration, drowning, getting struck by a motor
vehicle, and falling. Facility policies should clearly define the
procedures for monitoring and managing patients at risk for elopement
and otherwise minimize the risk that a patient will leave the facility
or a safe area without authorization or appropriate supervision. In
addition, the patient’s care plan should address the potential for
elopement. A nursing home or assisted living facility’s disaster and
emergency preparedness plan should include a plan to locate a missing
patient who has eloped.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is
dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing
home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke,
Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Wed, April 29, 2009
by Robert Carter