The Chicago Tribune reported that former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood discovered the body of a 40-year-old nursing home resident while he was paddle boarding in Lake Michigan on Monday morning. According to reports, the baseball star immediately called 911. Soon after pulling the man’s body out of the water, detectives were able to identify him thanks to an I.D. tag on his wrist.
The name of the victim has not yet been released, but most of the initial reports we’ve seen say that the man lived in a North Side Chicago nursing home but was reported missing after being discharged from a local hospital on June 19. Current reports have not revealed where the victim lived, but there are a number of facilities located in the Edgewater neighborhood surrounding the 5400 block of North Broadway, including All American Nursing Home and Bryn Mawr Care.
Without knowing more about this particular case, it is difficult to say who, if anyone, is responsible for his wandering and ultimate death. Through our work with nursing home residents and their families, we have handled a number of cases involving resident elopement or wandering. Many nursing home residents who suffer from dementia or mental illness pose an elopement risk, and nursing homes are obligated to provide proper supervision and assistance to reduce this risk. Residents who are unfit to leave the facility but do so may face serious and sometimes fatal injuries. Therefore facilities must be sufficiently staffed with employees who are properly trained to care for residents who have a tendency to wander.
This incident differs from a nursing home elopement case in that the victim was formally discharged from the hospital and had not returned to nor wandered away from the nursing home where he lived. If the family takes action to learn more about their loved one’s death, they must look at why and how the hospital discharged him, whether he was fit for discharge, and if the hospital should have notified nursing home staff. Additionally, if the nursing home was aware of his discharge and knew he should not be left unsupervised, why didn’t they get involved to ensure a safe transfer?
Of course, this is a developing story and there are a number of questions left unanswered at this point. At the very least it is a reminder of the need for hospitals, nursing homes, and others involved in the care giving process to be incredibly vigilant at all times to ensure the safety of those relying on them for support.
We will continue to monitor the situation and share any new developments.