A gentleman, age 88, was admitted to an elderly care facility. His family was informed that the facility had in place a system that alerts staff when a resident attempts elopement, alarms that alert staff when a resident leaves his/her bed, locked doors, 24-hour supervision of residents, and video surveillance cameras.
Several months later, the above noted gentleman was found approximately 1000 feet from the elderly care facility with minor abrasions and hypothermia. He was transferred to a local health care facility and died three days later. It was unknown how the gentleman exited the building. His alarm did not signal when he left his bed, nor did the system alert staff when he attempted elopement. The windows in his room were closed.
Analysis of video surveillance indicated the gentleman left his room at approximately 1 am and entered a room on the opposite side of the hall. During an inspection of this room, a window was found open, and it had a lock in place that limits the window opening to approximately eight inches. The window screen was bent downward and outward towards an exterior window air conditioning unit. The lower window sill was approximately 14 feet from the ground below.
It was alleged that the elderly care facility either allowed the gentleman to leave the facility through a doorway or he was purposefully removed from the facility. Biomechanics was used to determine if the gentleman could physically ambulate to the window, climb up to the window sill, fit through the narrow opening, and descend 14 feet without receiving injuries in excess of those noted in the autopsy report.
While it was noted the gentleman was confined to a wheelchair, analysis of his records indicate he was capable of ambulation, and the aid of facility structures assisted and provided support. This was confirmed by the video surveillance. It was noted he was capable of entering and exiting his bed and was noted to have climbed on top of a dining room table. This indicated he was capable of climbing up to the window. Anthropometric analysis and live human testing determined it was possible for the gentleman to fit through the window, even with the eight-inch opening limitation.
Finally, a number of scenarios were analyzed to determine the forces associated with a drop from the 14- foot window sill height. A scenario in which the gentleman dangled from the exterior air conditioning unit, or used the unit to lower himself at a reduced speed indicated it was possible to exit via the window and not receive injuries beyond the noted abrasions. By dangling from the window air conditioning unit he could reduce the drop height by approximately 70%. This, combined with a tumbling, or energy reducing, landing would mitigate the fall force such that it was not outside the level of forces associated with mild cardiovascular aerobic exercise.
Therefore, ARCCA’s experts were able to scientifically and biomechanically show that the gentleman could have exited the window.