June 26, 2013

Nursing Home Resident Found in Lake Michigan After Leaving Hospital

by Levin & Perconti

The body of a Chicago area man was found floating in the water near Belmont Harbor earlier this week, and at this time it is unknown what led to the man’s untimely death. On the victim’s wrist was an identification tag that linked to reports of a missing person from a nursing home on the North Side of Chicago. The nursing home reported the man as missing after he was discharged from a hospital last week and did not come back to the nursing home where he lived prior to his stay in the hospital. The victim was identified as a 40-year-old man and the cause of death at this time is not known.

According to The Chicago Tribune, at this time it is unknown which specific nursing home the victim was a resident of, but the report mentions that it was a North Side nursing home. The Edgewater neighborhood and surrounding areas are home to a number of nursing homes. Some of the nursing homes in the area include All American Nursing Home, Bryn Mawr Care, Mid-America Care Center and Alden Lakeland, however it is still unknown where the victim had been living before he went to the hospital.

Given the lack of details known about what happened it is unclear if this was an accident or if anyone will be charged with negligence in connection with the lost man who ended up in the lake. If the victim was a current resident of the nursing home, it may have been the nursing home’s responsibility to make sure that the resident made it safely back to the nursing home after being discharged from the hospital. However, if the hospital staff knew that their patient was a resident of the nursing home or unfit for discharge, they may be held responsible for allowing him to leave the hospital without making sure he ended up back at the nursing home where he was supposed to go. However, until without further details it is hard to say what really happened.

Reports say that the victim was discharged from the hospital, however we often hear of cases where patients leave hospitals and nursing homes without staff knowing. While this may seem like the patient’s choice, if staff knows that a patient is not in a position to make this type of choice reasonably on his or her own, the hospital may be liable for failing to properly supervise the patient and any injuries that may occur as a result of this elopement. When families admit a loved one to a nursing home or hospital they trust that their loved one will be properly monitored and taken care of at all times. However we have seen many instances where facilities breach this trust and patients and residents are injured as a result of a lack of supervision.

Elopement is a serious issue in nursing home care. Our attorneys have filed cases on behalf of families of nursing home residents who have wandered out while under the care of nursing home staff and have suffered serious injuries or death. In one case, we received a $950,000 settlement for the family of an elderly woman who wandered out of her nursing home and froze to death. Similarly in another lawsuit, a resident with a known history of wandering died after wandering into the cold after the nursing home failed to make sure his monitoring bracelet was properly functionin. We obtained a $825,000 settlement for his surviving family.

While it is not exactly known what happened to the victim in this tragic case, there may be an individual staff member or a facility that acted negligently in connection with his resident’s care. When families believe that their loved one's injuries or death may have occurred as a result of nursing home or medical negligence our legal system gives them the power to seek answers surrounding their loved one's injuries. These actions also motivate facilities to improve the quality of care for others in order to avoid future litigation.