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Wife's anger after Southampton care home unaware dementia patient has walked out
CARE home staff told the wife of an elderly resident that he was asleep in bed – unaware that the dementia sufferer had walked out and found his way home.
Margaret Gilbert had said a tearful goodbye to Roy, her husband of 46 years, after making the difficult decision to place him in respite care for the first time.
But she was left stunned when that same night she received a phone call from a stranger who said her 84-year-old husband had turned up on his doorstep.
After collecting him in the middle of the night, Mrs Gilbert contacted the home and asked how her husband was, only to be told he had settled in well and was asleep in bed.
Mrs Gilbert said: “I couldn’t believe it. So I said to the woman: ‘Well how is it then he is standing right next to me?’ She didn’t really know what to say to that.”
Southampton City Council, which runs the home, said it could not comment on individual cases but that any shortfall in care will prompt an investigation.
The great-grandmother discovered that her husband had been found wandering the streets of Thornhill. He had apparently walked out, having spent just hours at the Holcroft House care home where he was due to spend a week.
Mr Gilbert, who has suffered from dementia for three years, gave the man who found him an address in Southampton where he used to live as a child.
When he arrived there the homeowner was able to find a telephone number in Mr Gilbert’s pocket to contact his wife.
Mrs Gilbert, 73, who lives in Shirley, said: “It was just so lucky he was found and looked after. He didn’t have a coat on and it was freezing cold. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.”
When she asked staff what happened, they could not explain how Mr Gilbert, who served as a merchant seaman before becoming a plumber and handyman, managed to leave the secure home in Thornhill.
Mrs Gilbert said: “There must have been a door open as you need a card to get out. He has tried to walk out of the flat where we live before and of course he does get confused about where he is.
“I don’t think they must have checked on him as they still thought he was in his room when it must have been a good while that he had been missing.”
Mrs Gilbert, who herself works in residential care, has contacted Southampton Social Services – who arranged the respite care – about the incident in the hope that there is not a repeat of the situation.
She said: “It was a difficult enough decision to leave him there for respite as it was the first time I had done it. It broke my heart as we have never been apart really. It was strange coming back to our home on my own, but you don’t ever think something like this will happen.”
She said she also wanted to thank the person who initially found her husband on the streets. “I am so grateful to the kind people who took care of him.”
A spokesman for Southampton City Council, which runs Holcroft House which specialises in caring for people with mild to moderate dementia, said: “Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases for reasons of confidentiality, any situation that presents a risk to the safety and security of residents in our care is of the utmost concern to the council.
“When we find that our practice has fallen short of the standards we expect, a thorough investigation is undertaken and measures are put in place to guard against future risk.”
The home was contacted by the Daily Echo but did not provide a comment.
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