Cold weather may have caused elderly woman's death

Tuesday, February 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Cold weather may be to blame for the death of an elderly woman who wandered outside an assisted living center early Monday, authorities said.

The 84-year-old woman was found dead about 8:30 a.m. in the courtyard of the Sterling House of Tulsa, police said.

The temperature dropped to 22 degrees that night and police believe the Alzheimer's patient, dressed only in a nightgown, may have fallen on the ground and frozen to death.

Another resident of the home saw Cleo Finley lying on the ground and notified nurses.

The state Medical Examiner's Office will determine the cause of death, police said.

``It appears that somehow during the evening she walked out and was unable to find her way back in,'' Officer Lucky Lamons said. ``She fell and possibly died from the elements. We don't feel there is any foul play involved.''

Finley had cuts from her fall, but there was no sign of an assault, police said.

After her death, family members reportedly told police Finley had been suffering from severe headaches and had an appointment Monday to see a doctor.

Kathleen Jennings, spokeswoman for Alterra Sterling House, said routine checks on residents at the assisted living center depend on ``the family's request, the patient's request or what is medically requested.''

Jennings wouldn't comment about whether residents' doors are locked during the night or if any alarms are used.

Hank Hartcell, of the Oklahoma Department of Health, said there are certain conditions that apply to door locks and alarms at assisted living centers with Alzheimer's patients.

He didn't know if Sterling House of Tulsa was in compliance with those standards.

It is one of 28 Alterra Sterling House assisted living centers in Oklahoma.