‘Huge shock’: Dementia patient walks away from nursing home, ends up in jail


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The family of a 74-year-old dementia patient was shocked to find out she had ended up in jail after walking away from her Florida nursing home last week.

Police picked up Gwen Donahue on an outstanding warrant from nearly a decade ago.

“When she wakes up in the morning, she doesn’t know where she is,” her daughter Meghan Donahue said. “She probably thinks she’s done something wrong and we’ve abandoned her.”

Donahue said her mother is in poor physical and mental health and doesn’t pose a risk to the public.

Donahue explained that her mother wandered off from her Dade City nursing home last Wednesday. She apparently made it three miles away before Dade City officers found her.

They also found a 2011 arrest warrant when they ran her name and later booked her into the Pasco County Jail.

Meghan Donahue called the warrant, of which she had no knowledge, a “huge shock.”

“My mom has no priors. She’s just this little old Catholic lady,” she said. “My mom shouldn’t have to spend another minute there.”

Donahue said the warrant is from an old DUI. Her mother paid the fines and completed the community service but apparently overlooked a two-hour online course.

“Somebody should be looking out for the people that get caught up in the net and shouldn’t be there,” she said.

Donahue said after nearly a week of calling authorities in both Pasco and Sumter counties, a Sumter County judge signed a release order Monday afternoon. Her mother was expected to be released Tuesday night.


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