No Harsh Penalty for Assisted Living Facility After Resident Wandering Leads to Death

Employees of an assisted living facility struggled to keep track of a male dementia patient who wandered from the facility on many occasions.  The 75-year-old man was once found in a bank lobby. Months later, he wandered into a nearby condo complex and had to be escorted back.

The elopement ended when the former Episcopal priest and social worker went missing and was found a week later floating face down in a nearby lake, his body ripped apart by alligators. The incident which occurred in 2004 prompted an investigation by the Agency for Health Care Administration, which turned up several violations, including a citation for failing to keep on top of the resident's whereabouts. But in the end, no fines were issued against the facility.

A review of the resident's medical records showed that he suffered from dementia for at least a year before his death. Though assisted living facility had a section for people with dementia but the man was never placed in the special unit. The day the man went missing he wanted to go for a walk. The home sent an aide to watch him. But the man soon bolted into the woods, and the aide, who wasn’t carrying a cell phone, didn’t follow, returning to the facility before calling rescue workers. The man was not seen for seven days until an air-boat found his body in a nearby lake. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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