Elderly Man Walks Out Of Nursing Home Unnoticed, Freezes To Death

Charleston personal injury attorneys know the decision to move disabled or elderly family members into a nursing home is never easy, but once that decision is made, families trust that loved ones will be properly cared for while under the supervision of the home’s staff. Unfortunately, the quality of care families expect is not always met. In such cases, much like the following, it is important for families to take legal action against those who are liable for compromising the well being of their loved ones, as this process helps to prevent future similar incidents of injury and wrongful death.

An elderly veteran and retired Philadelphia police officer froze to death after wandering from a state veterans home New Year’s Eve 2007 and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agreed to pay $250,000 to his family and estate, settling a negligence and wrongful death claim. The 75-year-old man ambled away from the Delaware Valley Veterans Home in Northeast Pennsylvania at 5:30 p.m. on December 31, surveillance footage included in court records also showed the elderly gentlemen walk past a security desk unnoticed, while garbed only in his pajamas.

Records also show that several staff members were suspended or admonished for their inattention to the man. One of the aides decided to quit rather than submit to questioning, state officials later learned this particular employee had previously been convicted of stalking. The Pennsylvania Department of Health inspection report specified that the veterans home staff failed to take timely action, which resulted in the residents actual harm and eventual death.

According to an internal investigation there wasn’t notice of the wandering resident’s absence for two hours. A careless mistake and display of nursing home abuse and assisted living negligence by employees considering the 75-year-old resident suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and was suppose to be monitored. The man’s death was clearly presented by the plaintiffs as it could have been avoided if not for the lack of supervision by the staff.

The neglected resident’s body was found the next morning and an autopsy listed hypothermia as the cause of death. In severe cases of hypothermia, victims have difficulty speaking and thinking, using their hands, and metabolic processes shut down. If temperatures are low enough the exposed skin becomes blue and puffy, muscle coordination becomes very poor, walking becomes almost impossible, and the victim exhibits incoherent/irrational behavior. Pulse and respiration rates decrease significantly, but fast heart rates may also occur. Major organs fail, clinical death occurs, but because of decreased cellular activity in stage 3 hypothermia, the body will actually take longer to undergo brain death.

The night the elderly man wandered away from the veteran’s home temperatures in the Philadelphia area dropped below freezing and were accompanied by an icy rain. When the body was found it was only a few yards from the home. The man’s wife made a comment in an interview saying, “if he were any closer, they would have tripped over him.”

The settlement agreement awards the Korean veteran and former police officer’s two daughters $30,128 each. A total of $90,385 will go to his estate. The firm representing the family will be paid $83,333 for fees and $16,023 for expenses.

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