Woman dies after wandering from assisted living facility, spending hours in cold, attorney says

ROCK HILL, S.C. — A woman who family members said wandered outside a Rock Hill assisted living facility and was left in the cold for hours overnight, died Sunday morning, according to the family’s attorney.

On Thursday, state health officials said the Department of Health and Environmental Control was investigating the incident.

Family members said the elderly woman left the Carolina Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Center on Lexington Commons Drive, near the Catawba River and Interstate 77 on Monday. She was hospitalized in critical condition, her daughter said.

An employee from Carolina Gardens, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the woman left the facility sometime Monday night, one day after the weekend’s winter storm.

“I felt sad and disappointed because somebody was supposed to be watching her and nobody did. She was out in the cold for 10 hours,” the employee told Channel 9.

The employee said Carolina Gardens is facing a staffing shortage and as a result, no one checked the residents’ rooms the night before to ensure all the patients were present.

“That did not happen. Nobody checked on her. She was outside for 10 hours. Couldn’t get back in cause the door was locked,” the employee said. “Nobody found her until 7 the next morning.”

On Thursday, the patient’s daughter told Channel 9′s Tina Terry her mom was in critical condition. She said her focus was on her mom right now, but she has many questions about how this could’ve happened.

Carolina Gardens submitted an incident report to DHEC describing the allegations, health officials said.

DHEC’s report says, in part, that the resident, “was found outside by a caregiver with no visible injuries. As a precaution, EMTs were called and decided to take (the patient), because (her) body temperature was below average.”

An attorney for the patient’s family said Thursday they still have questions about exactly how it happened.

“The patient is currently resting but is being transferred to hospice care,” F. Craig Wilkerson, a personal injury attorney, said Thursday. “The prognosis is not optimistic. This has been a very trying time for the family, and the family is currently focused on taking care of their mother. The family would ask that anyone with information to please contact my office and they may contact my office anonymously, if they wish to do so.”

DHEC officials said there are no past citations against this facility.

Terry visited Carolina Gardens last week to verify this story and for an explanation on how this could’ve come about. Staff in Rock Hill referred her to their corporate offices.

Channel 9 has called and emailed them for days without a response.

The employee who contacted Channel 9 said they reached out to the Department of Social Services asking someone to investigate.

“I hope they’re held accountable for their actions, I hope that woman never has to come back there, and I hope she’s safe,” she said.

This is a developing story. Check wsoctv.com for updates.

(WATCH BELOW: New report details serious violations at south Charlotte assisted living facility)

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