Family sues Sun Prairie living facility after woman's death

Published: Apr. 26, 2018 at 11:20 AM CDT
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The family of Alice McGaw, who died outside a Sun Prairie assisted living center, is suing the facility for her death.

Alice McGaw, age 84, died outside Faith Gardens Memory Care in December 2017 and authorities say hypothermia was likely a factor in her death.

In a complaint filed Thursday morning, the family of McGaw, through an estate administrator and attorney Matthew Boller said, McGaw was admitted to Faith Gardens on October 28, 2017 from another facility. When McGaw was admitted, she had a diagnoses of dementia.

Court documents say Alice McGaw “had a history of wandering behaviors and elopement attempts” that Faith Gardens supervisors were aware of and “promised the McGaw family that they would keep her safe.”

In the complaint, it said that McGaw was noted as being in her room at 4 a.m. on December 29th, but by 8 a.m. staff could not find her. A morning staff member later looked outside and “found Alice McGaw laying on the ground, deceased, across the parking lot of the facility.”

The complaint continues to explain that, “Sometime during the overnight hours of December 28th-29th, McGaw walked out of Faith Gardens without her walker, wearing only pajamas and socks in sub-freezing temperatures, across a snow-filled parking lot.” It is believed that she tipped over in the parking lot and “crawled with her hands and knees a significant distance before she fell to the ground and curled up into the fetal position and froze to death.”

The family claims that Faith Gardens had a habit of propping open the front door to the facility, attempting to disarm the second alarm door. The complaint also says McGaw was able to get out of the facility due to the lack of attentive staff.

“They're doing okay. This is really tough thing to deal with. We all know that our elderly parents and grandparents aren't going to live forever but certainly nobody expects this and we shouldn't have to," said Attorney Michele Vaughan talking about McGaw's family. "You know, they really placed their trust in this assisted living facility. And to think that maybe they're on the right track. Maybe things are going to get better. And then to see, to read in the newspaper or the television, more bad things have happened is pretty tough."

WMTV staff reached out to Faith Gardens and Rachel Baehr, Faith Gardens Memory Care owner, shared the following statement:

"We send our deepest sympathies to the McGaw family, whom we previously reached out to. We continue to work on Faith Gardens' approved plan of correction from DHS to ensure security at our facility and the safeguarding of privacy for our residents. DHS recently found additional allegations unsubstantiated and our Number One priority continues to be the health, safety and welfare of our residents and additional training of our staff. Since this matter is in litigation, I cannot comment further on the advice of our lawyers."