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FCPD Investigating Possible Weather-Related Deaths Outside Reston Senior Facilities 

by Catherine Douglas Moran January 23, 2019 at 12:45 pm 21 Comments

Fairfax County detectives are investigating three weather-apparent deaths — two of which happened outside senior facilities near Reston.

The first Reston-area death occurred last Monday (Jan. 14).

Police arrived within six minutes of the initial call at 5:59 p.m. to a CPR in progress at the Brightview Nursing Home (10200 Colvin Run Road), according to the report. The staff at the nursing home told police that 88-year-old resident Joan Ackley had been missing for approximately two-and-a-half hours before she was located outside of the facility.

A week later on Jan. 21, police responded around 3:30 p.m. to a Critical Missing Person call at the Sunrise at Reston Town Center, an assisted living facility at 1778 Fountain Drive.

Staff said that 86-year-old Ida Wolk of Reston had a scheduled wellness check, but hadn’t been seen for almost three hours, according to the report.

During a search of the building and surrounding areas, one the officers “looked out a window in the rear of the building and saw the woman laying outside in the snow,” according to the report.

Police wrapped her in warm blankets and took her inside the facility until the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department arrived and transported her to a local hospital where she later died.

Both cases are active death investigations and are awaiting results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Police are urging locals to check on vulnerable family and friends and to call the police non-emergency number if they spot anyone who appears confused or inappropriately dressed outside during the cold weather.

More from the Fairfax County Police Department:

Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau are investigating after what appears to be three weather-related deaths. In the past nine days, officers have been called to three separate incidents involving exposure to the cold weather and we are asking for your help in preventing any further weather-related tragedies.

On Monday afternoon, around 3:30, our officers were sent to a Critical Missing Person call at the Sunrise at Reston Town Center assisted living facility, located at 1778 Fountain Drive.  The staff at Sunrise had a scheduled wellness check for an 86-year-old resident, Ida Wolk, of Reston who hadn’t been seen for almost three hours and could not be located after an extensive search.  Numerous officers started a methodical search of the building and surrounding areas. As one of our officers was clearing the third floor, he looked out a window in the rear of the building and saw the woman laying outside in the snow.  Officers rendered immediate aid; wrapping her in warm blankets and taking her inside the facility until the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department arrived.  She was transported to a local hospital where she died.  The case remains as an active death investigation, pending the results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

On Monday morning, around 11:30, our officers were sent to the 9800 block of Clifford Drive for a trespassing call.  A resident had found a homeless person sleeping on top of the washing machines in the laundry room of the apartment complex.  Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department arrived on the scene and pronounced the 47-year-old-man, Kenneth Perez, no fixed address dead.  The case remains as an active death investigation, pending the results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

On Monday, January 14, at 5:59 p.m., our officers were sent to a CPR in progress at the Brightview Nursing Home, located at 10200 Colvin Run Road, in Reston.  Our officers arrived within six minutes of the initial call. According to the staff at the nursing home, 88-year-old resident Joan Ackley had been missing for approximately two and a half hours.  She was located outside of the facility.  The case remains as an active death investigation, pending the results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Please check on vulnerable family, friends and neighbors during the cold weather. If you see someone who appears confused and/or not properly clothed for the weather sleeping outside or in a place without heat when temperatures are below freezing, they may be at risk of hypothermia –  please call the police non-emergency number, 703-691-2131. For more information please visit Fairfax County’s Hypothermia Prevention Program.

For ongoing updates, please read our blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @FairfaxCountyPD.

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  • Amy Sue

    Disgusting. How can vulnerable elderly patients go missing for several hours in facilities you can bet someone is paying a pretty penny for? For profit nursing homes and senior facilities are notorious for understaffing or for paying very low wages. So they can reap their profits off the vulnerable. Just appalling.

    • Mike M

      The story is disturbing. Many of us know people finishing their lives in such facilities. Many of us wonder if the vicitms couldn’t be us some day. I think the telling part is where the police officer who does not work at the facility was the one who found the second victim simply by looking out the window. I know the job of protecting such people from themselves is hard, but you would think on a snowy day – or more especially on a bitterly cold day, staff sensitivity to egress and exposure would be sharpened.

      • Debra Steppel

        As I said above, BVGF is Assisted Living — not a prison. Residents are free to come and go as they please. Many elderly are stubborn and/or forget their limitations.

        • Mike M

          So, they should die in the snow just outside the building?

          • Debra Steppel

            My point was that the suggestion made was already being done. It is a tightrope walk to balance safety with independence/freedom. Most of the time it works. This time, obviously the resident fell through the cracks. My mother lived at this very same facility for over 4 years so I know this facility’s rules and procedures.

            Also, the concierge at the front desk who monitors everyone entering and exiting is the same person who accepts delivery packages, handles movers who are moving new residents in, answers the main phone line, and basically monitors everything happening in the lobby. There is sometimes a beehive of activity there and I can see how it might be possible for something to get missed. It is awful that this happened but I don’t know that it was entirely preventable. Maybe it was, but maybe not. I do not know what was happening at BVGF at that exact point in time.

          • Amy Sue

            For the amount of money these facilities charge and the serious missions they’re undertaking, falling through the cracks is unacceptable. What if it were your loved one? We’re talking about deaths here. And people missing for HOURS!!???? I understand the challenges of dealing with elderly residents, especially those with dementia. But vulnerable people missing for hours when they’re in facilities that are supposed to be taking care of them is not falling through the cracks. It’s negligence. I’ve seen these places, even the most expensive, and staff caring for residents are often extremely overburdened and underpaid.

          • Mike M

            Read Del’s post.
            I am glad your relative had a better experience. Good luck?

          • Debra Steppel

            Sadly, Mike, my Mom passed away just about a year ago. Parkinsons is a terrible way to go. But she died surrounded by caring BVGF staff in addition to our family.

          • Debra Steppel

            Amy Sue, BVGF checks on its residents at mealtimes and med times. I believe I saw in a news report that the resident was found in the late afternoon. That means the resident probably was checked in fine at lunchtime but perhaps left the facility without signing out sometime after lunch. Residents are free to go wherever they want. They are not in prison. Do you understand how Assisted Living works? They do not necessarily have 1:1 companions (some do, but most don’t) — they do their own thing. The ones with dementia are in a locked unit and do not come and go as they please. How do you know whether the resident who died had any particular medical condition? There is a locked dementia unit at BVGF but it only has about 25 residents. Most of the BVGF are in Assisted Living and have freedom of movement. I don’t know which unit the resident who died was in – but I suspect it was the unlocked one only because I know how closely the dementia patients are watched and I can’t imagine how someone in that unit would have been able to get out unaccompanied. My mother spent 4 years living at BVGF: most of her time in the unlocked unit but her last 4 months were in the locked one. So I know ther rules for both units.

          • Mike M

            I am sorry about your mom, and glad you were comfortable with her care. Apparently not everyone had the same experience there.

      • Del Mueller

        Maybe this is common sense. On cold and or snowy days and you have an elderly missing person from a facility. The first place you search if a cop is the perimeter of the building and its yard. Do the outside perimeter first before going inside to search.

        • Debra Steppel

          Del, BVGF has a protocol that every resident who leaves the facility must sign out in the book at the front desk. If the staff was looking inside first, I suspect the resident left the building without having signed out. Residents of Assisted Living are supposed to be mentally capable enough to sign out if they leave, and if they haven’t signed out, they are presumed to be indoors.

      • Amy Sue

        I think some staff in these places are overwhelmed with two much work while others are uncaring or even cruel. we would never put up with this type of thing in a child daycare, why do we make excuses for facilities charged with serving people who are often equally, if not more, vulnerable.

        • Debra Steppel

          Amy Sue, I think it is very difficult to manage a situation where sometimes hours go by with …crickets… while other times everything hits the fan all at once. It is important to staff the desk appropriately but there are times it would be overwhelming for anyone. And, the busy times are often unpredictable. Daycare for children tends to ALWAYS have something going on while Assisted Living is usually quiet — until those spurts of activity when suddenly it isn’t quiet.

  • The Ugly Truth

    Its never been quite clear to me why anyone would retire in this area with all of its well known downsides: pedestrian and biking hazards, bad traffic, terrible drivers, expensive, dense, politically divided and now crazy weather.

    Advice to old people: move to a warmer, friendlier place! your kids will love to come and visit.

    • Debra Steppel

      People retire to this area because members of their family (e.g. grown/adult children or nieces/nephews) are here. Many older people want to be near their families. Jobs are here so working people want to be here — and working-age people often have parents of retirement age. Having personally experienced being the “responsible adult” in both situations (one relative who lived in a nursing home that was an airplane-ride away from me, and another who lived in Assisted Living that was a 10 minute drive from me), I can tell you that the one who lived a 10 minute drive away from me had a MUCH better situation. Any facility can only do so much without frequent visits from family members who know the resident and can communicate their unspoken needs as well as jointly attend doctor appointments, and provide personal items and emotional support. Anyone who plans to retire far away from any caring family member will have regrets when their health deteriorates and they can no longer do everything for themselves. Paid caregivers are helpful, but no one can truly replace a nearby loving family member during the final stages of someone’s decline in health.

  • meh

    Why can’t they just give these people a wristband with an RFID chip in it. That way you know when/where they enter or exit the facilities. Obviously you still need staff that care enough to look. But maybe something like that would be helpful?

    • 30yearsinreston

      Give them the BPX parking App!!
      24X7 surveillance

    • Debra Steppel

      All residents at Brightview Great Falls are required to have a lifeline device with them at all times – either as a bracelet or a necklace/pendant – with a button that calls staff for help if the resident pushes the button. However, BVGF is an Assisted Living facility where residents are free to come and go. It is not a prison where residents are locked up and need to be tracked! If the resident was not capable of that level of independence, then a re-evaluation was needed. The staff at BVGF are very caring. My mother lived there for 4 years and was well cared for there.

      • Arealsmartchick

        Except staff will most likely not check on the resident anyway or do so when they get around to it. Northern Virginia assisted living facilities are absolutely vile. They mistreat patients and are negligent. My grandmother was a resident at about half of the ones located in our area. We moved her hopi g for better care. She was able to use the bathroom but needed assistance from wheelchair to commode and staff would make her wear a diaper and go in the diaper. They would then make her sit in her own waste for hours. They do not allow residents their dignity. Most of the people that work in these places are heartless, ignorant and without empathy. I pray that I never end up in that situation. I hate that my grandmother did.

        And before anyone asks, why didn’t you take her in? The answer because I was in treatment for leukemia and deathly I’ll and immunecompromised. There was no way that I could.

  • Arealsmartchick

    Right, except staff will most likely not check on the resident anyway or do so when they get around to it. Northern Virginia assisted living facilities are absolutely vile. They mistreat patients and are negligent. My grandmother was a resident at about half of the ones located in our area. We moved her hopi g for better care. She was able to use the bathroom but needed assistance from wheelchair to commode and staff would make her wear a diaper and go in the diaper. They would then make her sit in her own waste for hours. They do not allow residents their dignity. Most of the people that work in these places are heartless, ignorant and without empathy. I pray that I never end up in that situation. I hate that my grandmother did.

    And before anyone asks, why didn’t you take her in? The answer because I was in treatment for leukemia and deathly I’ll and immunecompromised. There was no way that I could.

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