Concern after dementia-unit escape

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014

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North Canterbury

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An elderly dementia patient was found face-down and motionless on a suburban street after escaping from the locked wing of her Kaiapoi rest home.

Passer-by Hayley Nicholls found the elderly woman lying on the footpath of Sneyd St, just around the corner from Annaliese Haven Rest Home, about 2.45pm on Thursday.

It initially looked as though she had fallen face-down after suffering a heart attack, Nicholls said, but she was surprised to find the woman was conscious and had suffered only bruising and swelling around her right eye.

She could not remember her name, where she lived or what had happened.

Annaliese Haven Rest Home said it was likely the patient, who was in her mid-80s, "slipped out" of the secure dementia unit among a group of rest home residents after a concert.

The rest home would conduct a full investigation, nurse manager Lisa Perkinson said.

Nicholls and another member of the public wrapped the woman in a blanket and called an ambulance.

About 40 minutes later, a staff member from the rest home drove past and identified the woman. The ambulance, other staff members and the woman's GP arrived soon after.

"I was absolutely incensed that this vulnerable elderly woman, confused with dementia, who potentially had facial fractures or otherwise, was so quickly loaded into a vehicle for return to the rest home," Nicholls said.

She had come across another confused and lost Annaliese Haven Rest Home resident in the same street about six months earlier, and ended up driving her back to the rest home herself.

Nicholls now plans to lodge a formal complaint.

"I find it unacceptable that agencies can ‘lose' patients at such a serious end of the care spectrum. Frankly, I am disgusted," she said.

Annaliese Haven Rest Home, which cares for 55 residents, informed the woman's family and would now ensure staff watched the doors of the dementia unit when groups left, Perkinson said.

The woman was reported missing around 3pm, soon after a choir group and other rest home residents had left the unit.

Kitchen staff, cleaners, the maintenance man and the facility manager all went out on to the streets to search for her.

Once found, she was checked by an ambulance paramedic and her GP and other than the bruising around her eye was "quite bright and happy", Perkinson said.

She was not aware of any other escapes from the secure dementia unit. Another rest home resident who had got lost on Sneyd St just over six months ago was entitled to leave the grounds on her own.

Age Concern chief executive Simon Templeton said the incident was "hugely concerning".

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- The Press

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