12162017Headline:

Charlotte, North Carolina

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Greg Jones
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Needless Nursing Home Death; Aide pleads Guilty

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Heidi Leon, a 24 year old nursing aide, accepted a plea agreement on charges in connection with the death of Sarah Wentworth, who was found about 5 in the morning on Feb. 5 outside The Arbor of Itasca. Wentworth, a 89-year-old Alzheimer’s disease patient, wandered out of an Itasca nursing home and froze to death in February. With the temperature hovering around zero, Wentworth left the home through a door, triggering an alarm.

Catherine Wentworth Shain, a daughter of the victim, told Judge Peter Dockery that "we entrusted our mother to the Arbor staff, but she was left alone to die alone in the cold. Her will to survive was overcome by the bitter cold, and she suffered a lonely and painful death."

The evidence showed that the barefoot Wentworth fell about 85 feet from the door and tried to crawl back about 14 feet, before her body gave out. The coroner’s report stated that hypothermia was the cause of death.

Wentworth’s family members said that they felt Leon was a "scapegoat" because she was the youngest staff member on duty, and that no one else was charged.

"Our greatest disappointment is that we did trust [Wentworth] would receive the quality care she deserved," "My mother deserved to die with dignity, which she was robbed of."

The Wentworth family has filed a civil wrongful death suit against the facility, claiming neglect.

This is a horrifc and tragic example of how nursing homes can be neglectful in under staffing, under training, under supervising and not heeding alarms in the care of those who need and deserve it most. If you have a loved one in a nursing facility, visit often. Be mindful of the staffing, cleanliness and attention to call bells and alarms. Ms. Shain summed it up, that our elder members of society deserve to live and die in dignity. The nursing home should be held accountable in civil law for damages. Obviously it won’t help the deceased but it may help keep facilities safe for other residents if nursing homes are acountable for putting profits before people.