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Assisted living facility beefs up security after dementia client wanders

A resident with dementia wandered away from this care facility Tuesday night and was found six hours later suffering from early stage hypothermia. (Sarah Smith/Enterprise)

A Park Rapids assisted living facility was ordered to beef up its alarm system after a dementia patient was found wandering along busy Highway 34.

Care Age Country Home's alarm and other safeguards were determined by the Minnesota Department of Health to be inadequate in warning staff to the man's wandering tendencies.

The facility was found to have neglected the patient's supervision under Minnesota's statutes pertaining to the care of vulnerable adults.

The MDH found the perimeter alarm "not effective in alerting staff" when the patient left the facility unsupervised.

"Between 2010 and June of 2012, eleven incidents were documented" in which the client was wandering out of the facility, the report states.

It is based on a complaint and subsequent visitation that occurred June 14. Owners Chris and Lynn Niemeyer were given the report Aug. 31 and had 30 days to rectify the deficiencies.

On June 9, two Care Age employees received a report from a "community member" who noticed the man wandering a quarter mile away from the facility on Eagle Bend Road. The two workers drove to his location and brought him back.

Under the mistaken impression the other employee was filing a report, neither employee reported the incident, the MDH report states.

"Everything is in place," said Lynn Niemeyer. "Everything is corrected. We had a door alarm that was not being set appropriately and we had to make some corrections here with our staff and change some other safety policies and procedures just so that we could have some increased monitoring in place, make sure everybody's kept safe."

The client had a tendency to wander off during the busy dinner hour, when staff was busiest.

"There were a few times that he actually wandered off the property," she said. "Other times he stepped out the door and wandered out onto the deck area where we brought him back in."

Niemeyer said the facility "works really close with the local family and they were aware he did have a tendency to do this but they very much wanted him to be here."

In 2009, when an air search was launched for a Care Age client who slipped away at night, former Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer spoke of the wandering problem associated with dementia patients, and suggested they be given wristbands to help locate them.

Care Age was not the only facility to have lost someone, Homer stressed.

The MDH indicated that six orders it issued in connection with the wandering man had all been corrected.

"It's one of those things that can happen in day-to-day activity," Niemeyer said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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