Body of Nursing Home Resident Found 3 Months After Being Left at a Medical Appointment

John ‘Jack’ Walsh, Jr. was 63 years old and suffering from Schizophrenia when he was dropped off early to a medical appointment by an ambulance company. Jack was transported by Action Ambulance from Pleasant Valley Nursing Center in Derry, NH, to Parkland Medical Center for a 1:30 appointment and never came home. More than 3 months later, his body was found partially submerged in water on the grounds of someone’s nearby home.

Hours Passed Before Ambulance Company and Nursing Home Contacted Family 
A lawsuit filed by Mr. Walsh’s sisters states that they were with their brother on the afternoon of December 13, 2016, the day he went missing from his doctor’s appointment. During lunch with their brother, the 3 sisters say they received a phone call from the nursing home stating that he had a 1:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment. The sisters took their brother back to Pleasant Valley Nursing Center, where he was picked up by Action Ambulance and taken without a nursing home chaperone to Parkland Medical Center. The suit alleges that the female employee from Action Ambulance left him in the waiting room and told him to call her when his appointment was finished. According to the suit, despite Jack’s history of schizophrenia, he was sent unaccompanied to the appointment, left unattended by Action Ambulance, and wasn’t properly monitored while inside Parkland Medical Center. It was only when Parkland Medical Center went to call Mr. Walsh from the waiting room that they discovered he was missing. Mr. Walsh did not own a mobile phone and his sisters allege that he had never followed this protocol for medical appointments in the past. The lawsuit also states that no one in the family gave permission for him to be taken to the appointment.

An attorney for Mr. Walsh’s sisters says that the ambulance company, Action Ambulance, was never informed by Pleasant Valley Nursing Center of Jack Walsh’s diagnosis of Schizophrenia, or his need for special accommodations. Parkland Medical Center is said to not have attempted to contact anyone at the nursing home or from Action Ambulance to report that Mr. Walsh had not shown up for his appointment. At 6:30 p.m. that night, Pleasant Valley Nursing Center called Mr. Walsh’s sisters when he failed to show up for dinner. An hour later, Derry, NH police began an official search for Jack Walsh. It wasn’t until March 10, 2017, over 3 months later, that Mr. Walsh’s body was found on the property of a private residence one mile from Parkland Medical Center. The medical examiner believes that he drowned in standing water on the property.

Elopement and Wandering
Our blog has often discussed cases eerily similar to Mr. Walsh’s. Elopement and Wandering are known risks for the elderly, particularly for those suffering from cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, or from certain diagnosed mental conditions. There is a lack of understanding of danger and the risks associated with leaving safe spaces, a disconnect that requires constant monitoring and oversight by nursing home staff, staff at medical appointments and by those involved in any sort of transport and care of someone with these conditions.

Wandering refers to the movement of someone within a relatively confined space, such as walking from their personal room into the room of another resident or common areas. Elopement, which is the situation that occurred with Mr.Walsh, is when a person is able to leave a so-called safe establishment, such as a nursing home, and freely roam outside.

While Mr. Walsh’s case is more unique than elopement cases we hear most frequently, perhaps it is even worse because it involves a series of missteps by several parties. Why would Pleasant Valley Nursing Center not have sent a staff member to accompany Mr. Walsh to his appointment, or at the very least given detailed information to Action Ambulance to ensure that they he was not only safely transported there, but accompanied to the door of his exam room and safely driven back to the nursing home? Furthermore, it is also unclear why Pleasant Valley had never notified family in advance that he had an appointment at an outside facility and obtained their permission. Just as shocking is the fact that the nursing home, the medical center, and the ambulance company did not escalate the situation and notify the family or local authorities until at least 5 hours after he failed to show for his appointment.

When Nursing Homes Fail to Provide the Care They Promise
As evidenced by Mr. Walsh and many other victims of nursing home neglect, elopement and wandering can have tragic consequences. The lack of accountability by any of the involved parties, as well as a complete lack of communication between the nursing home, the ambulance company, and the medical center are completely unacceptable. It is care like this that gives nursing homes a bad name. If at least one person responsible for Mr. Walsh’s care had provided the level of monitoring required when transporting a  nursing home resident, especially one suffering from mental illness, he would certainly be alive today. There is simply no excuse for what happened to Mr. Walsh or why it took so long for the nursing home or ambulance company to notice he never returned from a medical appointment that they were responsible for coordinating.

If you have a loved one who has been injured in a nursing home or other facility entrusted with their care, whether from wandering within the facility, eloping from the facility, or due to poor care or abuse, please contact the nursing home abuse attorneys of Levin & Perconti. Our Chicago, Illinois-based attorneys have represented families just like yours and have achieved numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements  for those who have suffered both physically and emotionally as a result of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Consultations with our lawyers are confidential and free. We do not get paid unless we recover money for you. Call us now at 312.332.2872 or contact us through our online case evaluation form.

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