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Dementia & Independent Living – Who is Responsible for Care?

Dementia & Independent Living - Who is Responsible for Care

A recent article from Philly.com posed the question: How independent is independent care?

The question was raised as a result of a devastating wrongful death case at Shannondell, a retirement community and nursing home facility in Philadelphia.

Just under a year ago, a resident of Shannondell, who was 85 and suffered from dementia, wandered out of her independent living facility in the middle of the night wearing only a light set of pajamas. It was freezing outside, there was snow on the ground, and she carried nothing with her but a potted plant.

Hours later, first responders found Ellen Hinds laying outside in the snow, turning blue and showing signs of frostbite. Unfortunately, she never regained consciously and passed away a week later due to complications from hypothermia.

Now, the victims son is suing the assisted living facility along with their security company for not doing enough to care for and protect his mother.

This horrible situation raises the question: how independent should assisted living care be?

Getting the Right Nursing Home Care

The biggest complaint and argument by Ellen’s son, Blake Rowe, and his legal team is that the facility allowed his mother to reside in an independent-living apartment, even after he made the facility aware that his mother suffered from memory problems and often wandered.

Prior to this awful situation, Rowe had received multiple calls from Shannondell informing him that his mother had been found wandering into the parking lot late at night.

According to Ellen Hind’s agreement, either herself or the facility had the right to ask for a higher level of care, perhaps in a memory unit.

Blake Rowe trusted that the nurses who were informing him of and witnessing his mother’s wandering would take the necessary precautions to assess his mother’s wandering and conditions.

Like many of us who have loved ones in a nursing home or long-term care facility, we trust the facilities to have our loved one’s best interest and care in mind.

Dementia in Long-Term Care Facilities

This raises the question of who is responsible for starting the conversation and taking precautions if a resident requires more help.

Rowe insists that his mother had the funds to pay for additional care, should the facility have done the proper assessment and recommended she be moved to a unit such as the memory unit for those with dementia.

Unfortunately, it is hard to say how many other nursing home residents suffer from this same fate, independent-living facilities are not required to report wandering. In nursing home and assisted living facilities in New Jersey along, more than 91 cases of wandering were reported in 2017, according to the chief of staff of the New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

Furthermore, it is estimated that 250,000 people with dementia are reported missing each year, according to Robert Koester, an expert on search and rescue involving elders who wander. In another study, the Alzheimer’s Association reported that roughly 60 percent of those suffering from dementia will wander.

Fighting to Stop Nursing Home Neglect

As you can read about on our Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse page, we work hard to fight for the rights of nursing home neglect victims like Ellen Hind. We have seen first-hand the devastating effects that neglect can wreak on our families and loved ones.

One of our own nursing home abuse attorneys, Michael Ringold, lost his own mother after she wandered from a memory unit in a long-term care facility. Even in locked and secured facilities, residents can still get out, many times due to understaffed facilities.

If you are looking for a nursing home facility for a loved one, it is important to think about concerns like these. Does the facility have a unit that can care for those with dementia? What precautions are in place to protect those who wander?

In the case described above, the victim was shown in video footage banging on the door and trying to enter a code in a keypad to get a guards attention. Since she wandered out without a key, she was not able to let herself back in and most likely had trouble remembering the correct keycode. The residents had to dial a 4-digit code in order to alert security. This raises the concern that facilities should be designed with the elderly’s needs in mind, perhaps only having a red button to alert security rather than requiring those suffering with memory issues to remember a specific 4-digit code in times of duress.

What to Do if a Loved One Has Suffered Nursing Home Neglect

The truth is, nursing home neglect occurs far more often than the industry would like to admit. That is why we work hard to fight against nursing home neglect and fight for the rights of our clients and their loved ones.

If you have any concerns about the care your loved one is receiving or did receive in a long-term care facility, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced team of nursing home attorneys. We are here to help, and there is someone available to answer your questions 24/7. You can contact us directly or call us toll free at 800-609-7577.