The administrator a Pittsburgh-area nursing home faces trial on criminal charges relating to a 2001 incident in which a resident with Alzheimer’s was trapped outside on an enclosed patio overnight and froze to death. Once the resident’s body was discovered, staff members were ordered to bring the remains inside and efforts were made to cover up the true cause of the resident’s death.
The criminal charges against the administrator include involuntary manslaughter and neglect of a care dependent person.
One of the common reasons for admitting a senior citizen to a nursing home is confusion or dementia which makes it unsafe for the resident to live independently in the community. Many nursing home residents who suffer from conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia do not have extensive physical difficulties which would keep them from being able to move about freely, but instead have mental or cognitive problems which makes it unsafe for them to live independently. Nursing homes have to aware of who those residents are and have care plans in place to ensure that they do not suffer injuries by wandering away from the nursing home. This is sometimes referred to as elopement, and can be prevented by staff members paying attention to the activity of the residents, by keeping a careful head count of the residents, and/or by using a device such as a “wander-guard” which alerts staff members when a resident leaves the premises. Injuries and fatalities are a too-common occurrence when residents are allowed to wander unattenmded in the community.