Somewhere during the night of Jan. 6, 2017, an elderly woman with dementia slipped out of her Ohio nursing home and froze to death.
When the three women who were in charge of patient care that night — one a nurse and the other two aides — discovered what had happened to the 76-year-old, they promptly falsified their records to show that they’d performed bed checks at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and found her safe and sound. Evidence would later show that she had left the building shortly after midnight. The temperature outside that night was below zero.
According to the state’s investigation, there were numerous failures that led to the patient elopement. Wandering is a common problem with patients who suffer from dementia, particularly in the evening. Patients will sometimes try to return to familiar places or just simply get confused and walk away. Nursing homes who care for such patients are supposed to have security measures in place — including doors that lock with a code — to keep patients from wandering off and getting hurt.
Two of the three defendants in the case eventually admitted to falsifying their logs in order to cover up the lapses. They eventually both agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor patient neglect and a felony count of forgery. As a result of the plea, a more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter was dismissed along with a charge of patient neglect. The third woman charged is taking her case to trial.
As a result of the plea agreement, both women will make a restitution payment, be required to perform community service and spend five years under community control and 60 days in jail.
Patient neglect is a serious issue in many nursing homes, particularly when patients suffer from dementia. Often, they’re unable to articulate the problems they experience — which is why it is so important for friends and family members to stay involved in their care.
If your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect, don’t allow the perpetrators to get away with what they have done. An attorney can help you understand how you can seek justice.