Patient Missing from Nursing Home Found Dead Two Weeks Later in Facility's Utility Closet

A 79-year-old nursing home patient, who was declared by the facility at which he was a patient to be "missing," was found dead two weeks later in the facility's own utility closet.  The man, who was a patient at the Thunderbolt Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, apparently left his wheelchair and stumbled into the utility closet.  The nursing home found the man's wheelchair near the closet, but was unable to find its patient.  The nursing home contacted police specialists in violent crimes and forensics to help with the search and informed investigators they should start looking for the man in local bars because he liked to drink.  The patient's body was taken to the local coroner's office for an autopsy.  Read more about the man's disappearance.

The nursing home failed this man and his family.  The facility failed to ensure its patient was being properly supervised, failed to have a coherent "missing persons" policy in place, and failed to perform a thorough search of its own facility.  The man would never have been missing if the facility had monitored the man's whereabouts using good old fashioned nursing and assistive technology.  For example, I profiled on this site on February 1, 2008 a Texas company called EmFinders, which designed an electronic monitoring system that could locate within minutes demented patients who wandered away (eloped) from nursing homes and assisted living facilities or became lost on site.  The tracking system consists of radio transmitters that look like bracelets or watchbands and fit on the wrists or around the ankles of the elderly.  When a patient is identified as missing, staff remotely activate the transmitter, 911 dispatchers are notified, the patient's location is pinpointed using cellular networks, and rescuers are guided to that location.  In this case, the nursing home also should have conducted an exhaustive search of its own facility, especially unlocked closets.  There is NEVER a good excuse for a nursing home to lose its own patient. 

The bitter irony in this case . . . the nursing home's patient, who was demented, confused, and alone, probably starved to death in the closet within feet of the nursing home's own dining room.  
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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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