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Dementia patients in danger of walking in the cold

Thu 7 Feb, 2019 / by / General

The recent polar vortex that spread across the Midwest made Illinois one of the coldest places on earth. According to the National Weather Service, it was even colder than Antarctica at some points earlier this month.

In some cities, temperatures fell to around negative 25 degrees. In parts of the state, wind chills made temperatures feel up to 50 degrees below zero. While the polar vortex may have subsided, for now, meteorologists believe more subzero temps are on their way. Sadly, these cold temperatures put many dementia patients at risk.

According to the Illinois Alzheimer’s Association, over 60 percent of dementia patients in the state experience episodes of “wandering.” This occurs when a dementia patient leaves an assisted-care facility, without permission, and walks aimlessly outdoors. Because of the disease, many patients do not realize the dangers wandering presents to their safety.

Tragically, many patients that wander are unaware of the freezing temperatures and can easily experience frostbite. Sadly, depending on how long it takes before the patient is found, sometimes wandering in freezing temperatures can even be fatal. Patients are also at risk of being hit by motor vehicles or slipping on the snow and ice.

Skilled nursing facilities are required to have preventive measures in place to keep patients from wandering outside. These often include:

  • Warning systems to alert when a patient walks outside
  • Locking system to prevent patients from wandering outside
  • Trained staff to keep a close eye on patients and exit doors

Allowing dementia patients to wander outside at their own free will can be considered a form of nursing home neglect. It can be beneficial to consult with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney before it is too late.