Two Patients of the Same Nursing Home Struck and Killed by Cars Within the Last Two Months

In the past six weeks, two patients from the same nursing home were struck and killed by cars after they were permitted to wander away (elope) from the facility.  A 66-year-old patient was struck and killed at 8 pm earlier this week.  On Christmas Eve, a 73-year-old patient died after she was struck.  Both were struck when they were walking along the side of a nearby road.  The nursing home is a 240-bed, long-term care facility near the intersection of two major roads.

The city where the deaths occurred attempted to reach agreement with the nursing home's corporate owner in mid-January, but the meeting was canceled by the company because it couldn't have its lawyer present at the meeting.  Police and city officials asked the state in to help last September.  In December 2007 alone, police were called to the nursing home for more than 37 incidents ranging from patients wandering along the highways to harassment of customers at a nearby shopping center.  Police have responded to the nursing home 27 times already this year.  The state is now working with local law enforcement to investigate the nursing home's lapses in care.  Read more about the nursing home's history of poor patient safety.  

I've written about wandering (elopement) problems at nursing homes and assisted living facilities several times now.  This nursing home has a sad history of protecting its patients.  When the state, city officials, and the police are fed up, you know the facility's got real problems.  The city's mayor was clearly fed up.  He was quoted in the article as saying, "We have had so many incidents involving residents of this [nursing home] that I have asked our law department and our police chief to do some research" as to what options are available.  Options?  The mayor and the police don't need to look far. 

These deaths would have been prevented by more competent staff, more careful supervision, and wander alarms in the facility that alert staff when patients attempt to leave unnoticed.  This isn't rocket science.  It just takes an investment of time and money by the nursing home's corporate owners and a commitment to patient safety.  I'd like to hear the chief financial officer at the nursing home's corporate office explain to the families of the two patients who were struck and killed why that investment wasn't made long ago.
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.