Protecting Loved Ones in Assisted Living from Tragedy

Seniors are among our most vulnerable citizens and they need and deserve our protection. The decision to place loved ones in a nursing home or an assisted living facility is oftentimes very difficult for families. They do so with the understanding that their loved one will be provided the necessary care and services for which the facility is paid to provide.

Many residents are placed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities due to issues with confusion, altered mental status, Alzheimer’s and similar conditions. Facilities are trained, regulated and required under the law to provide protection for those residents that cannot protect themselves. Incidents of residents “wandering” or eloping out of facilities is not an isolated problem and, in fact, is a serious issue that occurs in other facilities as well.

Proper precautions like a simple monitoring device bracelet can easily prevent tragedies like this from occurring. Too often, neglect and abuse of the elderly is swept under the rug. We take great pride in standing up for our fellow Kentuckians in doing all that we can to prevent nursing home abuse in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, tragedy still happens. Recently, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s at an assisted living facility in Laurel County wandered outside of her home into the outdoors, when temperatures had dipped well below freezing. Tragically, she froze to death – something that possibly could have been prevented.


Some have absolved the assisted living facility in Kentucky of blame, saying that it was an unfortunate accident and the facility bears no responsibility. A quick look at the reality of the situation, though, may prove otherwise.

National statistics show that there is a “wandering” crisis among those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia and similar conditions. As many as 6 out of 10 with those conditions will wander. The issue is of such significance that much like the “Amber Alerts” for children, there are “Silver Alerts” for the elderly.

Loved ones with those conditions are placed in assisted living facilities and nursing homes to protect them from this crisis. Good facilities are adequately staffed and are well-trained in preventing wandering. Proper supervision is an important element as wandering is often the result of too little supervision. Exit alarms at facilities and staff trained to promptly respond to those alarms prevent these occurrences.

In some, but not all cases, wandering is the result of negligence. Understaffing or poor training can lead to wandering. Thus, the possibility that this elderly person was a victim of negligence, and not just an accident, is very real and should be investigated.


The potential for nursing home abuse in Kentucky is very real. As an attorney, I deal with these issues every day. The sad thing is, these incidents can be prevented. They do not have to happen.

The first line of defense is carefully choosing your loved one’s nursing home or assisted living facility. You should select a facility that has an outstanding reputation for safety and careful supervision, especially if your loved one suffers from a debilitating condition like Alzheimer’s that subjects him or her to wandering and other dangerous activities.

Additionally, by selecting only the safest, most responsible facilities, you can help encourage better behavior from all facilities.

Our role is to help protect families from abuse and neglect, and one way we do that is to provide information to families so they can make informed decisions. There is strength in information, and it is our hope that if the information provided saves one family from going through something like this in the future, then a difference has been made.

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