Once ought to have been enough. But when two residents with dementia are allowed to wander off from an assisted living home, putting their precarious lives at obvious and elevated risk, government needs to demand answers – and changes.
That would be true under any circumstances, but when it involved Erie County’s most penalized such facility of recent years, the need to act is incontestable. Lives are plainly in danger.
The exact reason has yet to be determined, but in last month’s crisis at Brompton Heights assisted live home in Amherst, it’s easy to hear echoes of the one that occurred there in 2017. Then, Alice M. Klosko nearly froze to death after leaving the facility. She survived, despite being found semiconscious, bruised, frostbitten and suffering from hypothermia. She died in 2019, in a different facility.
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An Attorney General’s investigation ended with the arrests of four workers and fines against the facility. Authorities said one of the workers slept for half of his shift, while the others ignored or muted two emergency alarms meant to warn them of Klosko’s departure.
No such level of negligence has been reported in last week’s emergency, in which a 70-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease and dementia went missing for more than a day. But the fact is that John Allen left the facility and when he was finally found, was in dangerous condition: lying in the mud – cold, dehydrated and covered in scratches and tick bites.
Brompton Heights says that “a preliminary review by state regulators found that personnel acted appropriately throughout this situation,” but the fact is that, despite wearing a bracelet that sounds an alarm when a resident tries to exit, Allen left and wasn’t found for 30 hours. What is more, his daughter, Reba Allen said, neither the family nor police were notified for about two hours.
So, at least twice – perhaps for different reasons – alarms did not save residents with dementia. They walked out of Brompton Heights and were fortunate to have survived gruelling ordeals.
Adding to the concerns is Brompton Heights’ record with state regulators. The facility, owned by Buffalo-based Hamister Group LLC, is not one of the largest such facilities in Erie County and, in recent years, also one of the most penalized, with 36 violations issued by the Health Department from 2019 to 2022. That’s the highest number of violations among the county’s 38 adult care facilities over that four-year period. Only four other facilities were fined more than the single $3,525 civil penalty incurred by Brompton Heights in that same time frame.
Managing facilities such as Brompton Heights can be difficult and challenging. But that’s the business the owners are in here and, plainly, something needs to change.
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