Nursing Home Elopement Case Analyzed – 76 Year Old Nursing Home Resident Dies After Exposure to Freezing Temperature

Wrongful Death Nursing Home Elopement Attorneys

Nursing Home Elopement Wrongful Death Could Have Been Prevented Through Adequate Care

The Heartbreaking Tale of Neglect Leads to the Premature Death of 76 Year Old Hilty Memorial Home Resident, Phyllis Campbell

When the Campbell family placed their mother inside Hilty Memorial Home in Pandora, Ohio, they were promised supervision and assistance for Mom. Phyllis Campbell suffered from dementia, confusion and exhibited exit-seeking behavior. This means she was an elopement risk and would try to exit the building. Because she could not safely care for herself due to her dementia, legal requirements mandated that the facility try to stop Phyllis from walking out.

To comply with the law, nursing home staff allegedly put in place elopement prevention measures to ensure Phyllis would not escape from the nursing home. These alleged safety precautions failed miserably.

As a result of the facility’s failures, Phyllis was able to walk out of a locked nursing home unit and die from exposure and hypothermia after being outside in freezing temperatures for more than 8 hours.

A System of Failures to Prevent the Elopement Death of Phyllis Campbell

Assessments Should Reveal Propensity for Attempted Elopement

The law requires that nursing homes and assisted living facilities put in reasonable measures to prevent harm to residents. Part of this requires that the facility assess each of their residents, find out what risk factors they exhibit, and then try to stop that harm from happening to that resident.

In the case of Phyllis Campbell, it was clear that she was exit-seeking. Phyllis had a well documented history of exiting the nursing home doors and entering the courtyard. She would repeatedly tell staff she was leaving and ‘going home.’ As a result, the nursing home was put on notice of Ms. Campbell’s risk factor for exiting or eloping from the nursing home. This should have triggered care planning to put in place preventative measures to stop Phyllis from wandering out of the nursing home.

Recognizing Elopement Risk is Not Enough – The Law Requires Implementation of Elopement Preventative Techniques

Staff was required to come up with a Care Plan to address Phyllis Campbell’s risk factors. Undoubtedly, this Care Plan would discuss ways to prevent the elopement, escape or wandering of Phyllis. Care Plans are developed by the upper echelon of the facility. They are to be followed by the aides and staff that provide the day to day care for the resident.

However, when we bring nursing home negligence lawsuits, we often find that well manicured Care Plans are not always followed by the lower ranks. This commonly results in preventable injury to the resident.

Care Plans Only Work if the Policies and Technology are Implemented and Functioning

Phyllis’ care plan may reflect a lot of forethought on how to stop her from escaping from the nursing home. But words on paper do not stop tragedies from occurring. In order for a nursing home or ALF to meet the standard of care, they must actually implement the care plan in real life. We know from subsequent state investigations that this was not done.

All the Ways the Facility Failed to Protect Phyllis

  • Phyllis was equipped with a wander guard, which was supposed to alert staff if she wandered outside of her unit. Despite this, subsequent tests found her wander guard was not working or was turned off.
  • Two Hilty Memorial staff members that were tasked with performing scheduled check ins on Phyllis admitted to state investigators they did not actually check on her. Glaringly, they charted in Phyllis’ nursing home chart that these checks were performed and that she was in her room, not in distress. In reality, she was freezing to death outside.
  • An elopement-prevention alarmed door did not go off as Phyllis exited the doors, despite specifically being wired to do so in case a resident tries to escape.
  • An elopement-prevention alarmed door was propped open by nursing staff, thereby rendering the alarm useless.
  • The nurses, aides and staff woefully failed to supervise Ms. Campbell

The End Result

Ms. Campbell walked out of the facility around midnight. The outside temperature was 2 degrees and there was snow on the ground. Phyllis was not dressed for the weather and was locked out of the doors. 2 am and 4 am checks were charted as ‘performed’, although they were not actually done. Staff eventually found Phyllis outside, more than 8 hours later, frozen and lifeless in the courtyard.

Update: The negligent nursing home staff have been charged criminally for the death of Phyllis Campbell. Rachel Friesel, 36, and Destini Fenbert, 20, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, gross patient neglect, and falsifying bad check records. Megan Schnipke, 31, has been charged with one count of forgery and gross patient neglect.

Elopement Wrongful Death Lawyers to Sue for Escaped Nursing Home Patient

Elopement, Wandering or Escaped Nursing Home Resident Case?

Our experienced and compassionate attorneys at Senior Justice Law Firm specialize in representing victims of nursing home and assisted living negligence. We have handled numerous long term care facility elopement cases, and we can help your family pick up the pieces following a serious injury or wrongful death. Take a stand, report the facility and seek justice.

Call us today for your free case consultation: 1-844-253-8919.

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