I hate to read this – but again, elderly person with cognitive problems elopes from Nursing Home and dies.

According to the Chicago Tribune, however, the employee that ignored the alarm indicating the resident had eloped, has been charged:

An Itasca nursing home employee watched three straight episodes of “Dog The Bounty Hunter” and “shrugged off ” an alarm that indicated an 89-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease had wandered outside into near-zero conditions early one morning last month, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The woman’s lifeless, frozen body later was found in the facility’s courtyard after she had been outside for as many as five hours, prosecutors said, and now the employee, a nursing assistant, has been charged in connection with her death.

Heidi Leon, 23, of Bensenville was charged Tuesday with criminal neglect of a long-term-care facility resident, criminal neglect of an elderly person and obstruction of justice. If convicted, she faces up to 7 years in prison.

“She was expected to do her job. She was expected to make bed checks every two hours, and she didn’t,” DuPage County State’s Atty. Joseph Birkett said.

Leon is charged in connection with the Feb. 5 death of Sarah Wentworth, a two-year resident of The Arbor of Itasca nursing home. Leon had been an employee since last March. She has no previous criminal record, Birkett said.

“The death of Sarah Wentworth was not an accident, but a pattern of neglect,” Birkett said. “She was known by staff to be a wanderer and wore an ankle bracelet that reminded the staff.”

Birkett said nursing home protocol called for checks every two hours, and Leon is accused of lying about a 3 a.m. check she claimed she made on Wentworth.

Although an alarm sounded at a secure door during the middle of the night when Wentworth left the building, no nursing home employee checked on her, Birkett said, adding the outside temperature that morning was about 1 degree.

“Leon shrugged off the alarm and went back to watching TV,” he said.

Birkett said staff members at The Arbor were cooperative during the investigation, and he expected no criminal charges against others.

Wentworth’s family has filed a civil lawsuit alleging neglect and abuse on the part of The Arbor of Itasca.

“The family is pleased the state’s attorney has taken this matter seriously,” said Louis Cairo, the attorney representing the Wentworth family. “Because of [Leon’s] action and inaction, their mother lost her life.”

A federal rating system gives The Arbor of Itasca one star out of a possible five.

The facility’s most recent annual inspection was in April, when state investigators found 22 violations—more than twice the number at the average Illinois nursing home. But most were relatively minor and a majority were corrected by August, records show.


Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.