The 73-year-old man from Detroit was mentally impaired, struggling with dementia. He was also physically impaired, and needed a wheelchair to move around. These were the reasons why he was living in a Michigan nursing home in the first place.
Then, last month, the man reportedly wheeled himself out of the facility. No one stopped him. No one caught him. The following day, construction workers found him dead inside a Dumpster.
Now, just a few weeks have passed and his family has filed a lawsuit against the facility, alleging negligence proximately resulting in the man’s death. They probably have a strong case.
Most dementia patients and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have a tendency to wander. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that about 60 percent of those with the disease or some other form of dementia wander. Because of the fact that these diseases destroy the cells in the brain responsible for memory, thinking and behavior, the person who is wandering is likely disoriented and doesn’t know how to ask for help. This is true even in places that should be familiar to them.
This can come as an awful surprise to loved ones – but it’s something about which professional caregivers should be well aware. There is zero excuse for the fact that a patient was able to make it out the front doors and undetected for a full 24 hours.
This is exactly what the family alleges in their nursing home negligence lawsuit. They say the nursing home was aware this particular patient had a tendency to wander, and should have taken some basic steps – including installation of alarms and monitors – to ensure the man’s safety.
Police who investigated the incident reported the trash bin was only a few feet high, so it was possible the man fell in or got in on his own. However, that was not proven. There was also no indication of foul play. An autopsy indicated the man died of “natural causes,” even though he was out in the elements in Detroit in January. Listed as contributing causes were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end stage renal failure and heart disease.
Relatives say although hypothermia isn’t listed as a cause of death by the medical examiner, they believe the stress on his body from being outside all night contributed to his death.
Previous complaints against this nursing home include eight that were upheld by the state health department for:
- Improper investigation of resident complaints;
- Abuse and rough handling;
- An allegation that a staffer stole a resident’s debit card.
Plaintiff attorney, meanwhile, says he’s found more than three dozen incidents just in the last five years, and he’s still sifting through records. Among the reports he identified were:
- Fecal matter in laundry linens;
- undernourished patients;
- Improper restraints of patients.
If nursing home abuse lawyers can show a pattern of low staffing, poor nutrition, inadequate supervision and neglect, it will strengthen any claim that might be asserted for punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant for gross negligence.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Family sues after elderly man who wandered from nursing home found dead in dumpster, Jan. 28, 2016, By Gus Burns, MLive Media Group
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