The Dangers Of Wandering

It’s no shock that with the advances in medical care that people are living longer than ever. Many seniors want to stay as independent as possible and their loved ones often choose assisted living facilities that help their parents or other loved ones remain independent. However, care needs to be taken and facilities chosen with the forethought to what may happen if a loved one’s condition deteriorates. Are senior apartments and assisted living facilities prepared and outfitted for the chance that a resident suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s may wander? The Inquirer reports on the issue.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that as many as 60% of patients suffering from dementia will wander at some point. A man who has been long retired may try to walk to work. A woman may pace the halls of her facility with no clear goal.

This is what happened to Ellen Hinds, who wandered from her senior apartment home last March. There was snow on the ground and she was only wearing light pajamas. She was found face down in the snow with signs of frostbite and icicles forming on her hands and fingers. She died without ever regaining consciousness from complications of hypothermia.

Her son, Blake Rowe, has filed suit against the apartment complex, Shannondell at Valley Forge. His suit claims that the facility knew that his mother had a tendency to become confused and wander and should have done more to help her. He believes they should have assessed his mother for the risk of wandering and put into place protections that would have kept her from wandering from her home that night.

The case may prove to be difficult because assisted living facilities are not typically expected to provide supervision. Even in locked wards, residents are able to get out, most often due to understaffing.