Health Worker Fired After Elderly Woman With Dementia Found Dead in Ohio Nursing Home Freezer

An elderly woman with dementia died in a nursing home after wandering into a freezer.
An elderly woman was found dead at a nursing home several hours after she was reported missing, authorities said. Getty

A health worker has been fired after an elderly woman with dementia was found dead in a nursing home freezer, officials said.

The nursing aide from Maria & Joseph Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ohio was terminated after an investigation by the Ohio Department of Health, the agency announced this week.

Sofiya Perel, 86, was found dead in September, several hours after staff had called 911 to report her missing, according to the investigation report.

A nurse told dispatchers “the alarm didn’t go off” and said they “don’t know how she got out," authorities said at the time.

But the new inspection report said an aide deactivated the alarm after it sounded and failed to notify staff or to check that residents were accounted for.  The aide said she assumed another employee had triggered the alarm, the report said.

“That is why she didn’t check the stairwell before silencing the alarm,” the report read.

Perel apparently left her room and made her way to a walk-in freezer in the kitchen, authorities said. Her body was found hours later by fire department officials and the nursing home's director, according to the investigation.

The cooler was not locked, the report said. Since the incident, padlocks have been put on the outside of the coolers and freezers, the report said.

Staff have received additional training since the woman's death and now conducts checks on residents every two hours, the report said. 

At the time of Perel's death, nursing home officials released a statement saying they were “very saddened by the loss of one of our residents. We are, on all levels, assisting in the investigation of this tragic incident. We continuously strive to ensure the safety of the residents in our care.”

The fired staff member was not identified.

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