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Illinois Nursing Home Wandering Death Victim Had History of Leaving Facility

The Belleville News Democrat reported last week on an Illinois nursing home wandering death. According to the report, a 77-year old man was living at the Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care Center last month when he left the facility without catching the notice of any of the facility staff members. He was later found outside in the cold in a creek about a block from the facility. The night that he left the temperature dropped well below freezing. An autopsy confirmed that he died from hypothermia due to exposure to the elements.

The tragic case of Illinois nursing home neglect led to an investigation by the Illinois Department of Public Health. That state investigatory body released the results of its look into the situation last week. The information in the report clearly reveals that the facility should have done much more to prevent the tragedy from occurring.

Amazingly, the very resident who died in the ordeal had wandered away from the home on at least two prior occasions. Of course, it is logical that the facility would have taken added precautions to prevent the man from wandering again after the first times that the left the facility. However, the investigation revealed that the senior was not wearing a patient monitoring device at the time. If he had been wearing the device the entire ordeal might not have occurred and he likely would have survived.

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers were not surprised to learn that man’s individualized care plan was completely void of mention of his wandering tendencies. The senior, who suffered from dementia, kidney failure, and heart disease, had a care plan which did “not address [his] exit seeking behaviors and elopement attempts, and goals and interventions to address these behaviors.” In other words, the facility essentially ignored his flight risk and did nothing to prevent him from remaining safe in their future. Their negligence in this area was clearly a contributing factor to his ultimate death.

All told this report from the Illinois Department of Public Health ended by issuing the facility eight different citations against the home for its mishandling of the situation. Two of those eight were of the most severe variety, for actions that put residents in immediate jeopardy. In fact, two of the citations were related to mishandling of situations for other residents who had wandered from the facility. For example, a resident with a history of alcohol abuse wandered out of the home without notice. It wasn’t until later that he was found at a bar fifteen blocks away. It remains unclear what specific fines will be ordered and whether or not the actions will result in licensure issues for the home. However, the facility will be required to engage in a corrective plan of action, including listing in detail how improvements will be made to prevent future tragedies.

The daughters of the senior have met with an Illinois nursing home neglect attorney and are exploring their legal options. The attorney noted, “I think the findings clearly show and indicate that there was negligence if not gross negligence.”

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