Nursing Home’s License Revoked After Missing Resident Found Dead
77-year-old Audrey Penn’s body was discovered in a ditch on the side of a road in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania, one month after the missing resident wandered off from Woodland Terrace at the Oak nursing home. The Department of Human Services (DHS) revoked the license of the facility on October 6th for “gross incompetence, negligence, and misconduct.” Woodland Terrace representatives indicated they planned to appeal, and an appeal would need to be filed within ten days of the decision.
According to the agency, the morning of August 23rd, the day Penn was nowhere to be found, a staff member of Woodland Terrace noticed the woman wasn’t in her room but violated the home’s policy and waited 90 minutes to report there was a missing resident to a supervisor so a search could ensue. This decision “dramatically increased the area they would have had to search and the difficulty in locating her,” said Robert L. Sachs, a Philadelphia attorney representing the Penn family. The staff member has been terminated.
When Penn’s body was discovered, the home’s Executive Director Andrea McGowan issued the following statement: “The entire Woodland Terrace community is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Audrey Penn and the circumstances under which Audrey was found. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Audrey’s family.” She added, “Our community was committed to bringing Audrey home safely and joined individuals throughout the region, from as far away as Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, in raising awareness of the search.”
Penn had a long history of attempting to leave the home’s secure dementia unit. Earlier this year, she unlocked a door using the keypad and went into the staff’s break room. She also repeatedly pushed on the doors of the dementia unit and pressed keypad buttons. According to DHS, Woodland Terrace did not “adequately address the resident’s exit seeking behaviors.” The report called the missing resident a “victim of neglect.”
“They spent a miserable four weeks without any comprehension of how this could have happened,” said Sachs of Audrey’s family. He added that they were also shocked to learn Penn made it as far as she did because she had trouble walking. The family described her walk as more of a shuffle, and it was difficult for her to get around.
The nursing home had begun to take measures to improve security, including hourly resident checks and drills reenacting a resident wandering away, when its license was pulled. McGowan stated, “We continue to test our systems and review resident safety and security measures to ensure that all technology and processes continue to work effectively. The health, safety, and well-being of every resident always is our number one priority.”
The home released the following statement after DHS’s decision, “On Friday, Woodland Terrace received notification from the state of intent to revoke the community’s license. The community will continue to work with the state during the appeal process so that it can maintain its healthcare license and provide services for its residents.”