With the summer unofficially in full-swing, now is an important time to reiterate the dangers of tolerating nursing home wandering and elopement. Allowing residents with dementia and other vulnerabilities to roam in and around a facility without supervision constitutes a clear abrogation of duties. This conduct places residents at risk of potentially fatal injuries. The danger is even more pronounced when extreme weather is involved.
One tragic example of the consequences of this form of nursing home negligence was reported this month by the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel. The paper explained on the death of a 69-year old nursing home resident who was left outside all alone for over three hours in 97 degree heat. Reports indicate that the man asked to be taken outside to enjoy the weather around 2:45 p.m. Caretakers did so, but then forgot about him until over three hours later at 6 p.m.
When nursing home staff members finally found the man outside he was in clear distress and was not responsive. The victim’s body temperature was not taken until nearly two hours later-even then it was still 101.4 degrees
Everyone in the community was aware of the heat danger. Weather reports predicted the heat wave ahead of time. In fact, a Heat Advisory warning had been issued the day before specifically noting that extreme heat would hit the area between noon and 8 p.m.-the very window when the man was left alone outside.
Observation and supervision remains a central tenet to all caretaking tasks at nursing homes. Our Illinois nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti know that there is never a reason to fail to check on residents at reasonable intervals to ensure their well-being. This is especially true when the individual is outside in extreme weather. Please keep a close eye on elderly loved ones this summer season to ensure that they are properly shielded from potentially fatal weather-related stressors.
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