OSSIPEE – An assisted living facility being sued for negligence for allegedly allowing a dementia patient to walk away and never be found says the man’s family refused a doctor’s recommendation that he be placed in a locked unit.
Dwain “Dewey” Poulin, 84, previously eloped from Tamworth Community Living at 22 May’s Way in West Ossipee, but was found by local first responders following a more than five-hour search and safely returned.
Poulin was last seen on Sept. 10, 2018, wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, black sneakers, and a baseball cap that reads “NH State Bird” with a picture of a mosquito. Police suspect he might have hitchhiked trying to get to his childhood home in Wilton, Maine. Authorities suspended the active search for Poulin three days after he was reported missing.
In a lawsuit, Poulin’s daughters, Cheryl Poulin of Saco, Maine, and Kim Cullins of Tamworth, charge that the facility’s administrator assured them Tamworth Community Living was capable of keeping their father safe and that a higher level of care was not needed.
Following Poulin’s May 9, 2018, disappearance from the facility, his daughters purchased a key-chain sized GPS tracker that could be clipped to their fathers’ clothes and be digitally connected to a caretaker’s smartphone application and provided it to Tamworth Community Living, the lawsuit states.
Attorney Benjamin Gideon of Berman & Simmons P.A., of Lewiston, Maine, who represents the plaintiffs, asserts in the complaint that the defendant returned the tracker maintaining it had not met expectations, but did not suggest an alternative device.
In responding to the suit, Attorney Kenneth D. Murphy of Coughlin, Rainboth, Murphy & Lowe, PA., of Portsmouth, on behalf of Tamworth Community Living, denies it is liable asserting it could not have reasonably anticipated that a third party would give Poulin a ride when he took his regular authorized unattended walk out of the facility the day he disappeared.
The GPS tracker provided by the family did not work as intended, repeatedly giving false signals that he had left the facility. Poulin, a known dementia sufferer with a behavior disturbance, was also allegedly resistant to wearing it and often took it off. As a result, staff concluded the device did not function as intended and returned it to the family. The facility could not identify a device that worked in the area and that Poulin with comply with, according to the response to the suit in Carroll County Superior Court.
Tamworth Community Living maintains they provided Poulin care that balanced his need for dignity and the choices of his family.
Attorney Murphy denies that the facility received a copy of a doctor’s note dated July 11, 2018, giving notice that he had written a prescription for a GPS tracker and for a medication called Seroquel, an antipsychotic.
The defendant’s attorney further claims that the plaintiff who took Poulin to the doctor did not purchase the prescribed GPS device, or turn over the medication to Tamworth Community Living. Because of the acts of another party, Tamworth Community Living was not made aware of the recommendations and therefore could not have implemented them. They deny failing to provide adequate supervision necessary to prevent repeated elopement and maintain safety.
The defense additionally claims that Dwaine Poulin was comparatively at fault, and that third parties are liable for the plaintiff’s claims.
Attorney Murphy asserts that Poulin’s doctor recommended a locked facility if Poulin was “unable to have a good outcome with managing his aggression.”
In response to the recommendation, Tamworth Community Living claims the family advised them that placing Poulin in a locked unit would “kill him,” and declined to move him to a secure facility. Poulin’s durable power of attorney gave the facility staff permission to allow him to take unsupervised walks.
If the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement, the case is now on track to go to trial in Dec. 2020.