What You Should Know about Wandering and Elopement in Nursing Homes

shutterstock_1717046857-300x203When you and your family make the decision to place your elderly loved one into a nursing home, you want to have the reassurance that they are safe. This is especially true when they suffer from a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s or dementia.  You rely on the facility to monitor them and to always know what they are doing. But what happens when the nursing home staff isn’t keeping a close eye on their residents and they move around freely or actually wander away? Read on to learn about what you should know about wandering and elopement in nursing homes.

How Does it Happen?

Wandering or elopement in nursing homes occurs when residents walk throughout the facility or even more troubling- wander outside of the home. This usually happens as a result of inadequate care likely because the staff isn’t watching or monitoring the residents closely. For example, a nursing home resident with dementia could be confused and believe that they need to complete a task, such as taking out the trash. They wander around the facility to try to find the garbage and then continue looking for more trash until they can finish the job.  At any time, a memory from the resident’s past can trigger them into action and the urge to leave the facility immediately. Meanwhile the staff members have no idea where this resident has gone. Specifically, this type of situation can stem from understaffing, improper training, or because the staff is not following protocol.

Which Residents are at Risk for Wandering or Elopement?

Although it’s possible that any resident may end up roaming the halls or leaving the facility, there are certain groups of residents that are more likely to engage in wandering and elopement. It is a major concern with patients with the following conditions:

  • Anxiety;
  • Confusion;
  • Disorientation;
  • Frustration;
  • Inability to communicate;
  • Memory loss; and.or
  • Poor spatial reasoning.

Preventing Wandering and Elopement in Nursing Homes

Besides identifying an at-risk population, it’s up to the nursing home to take the necessary precautions to make sure that the residents are safe and secure. This includes having procedures ready to ensure patients don’t easily leave the grounds or slip out unnoticed. When patients go out for excursions, the staff must be sure to watch that vulnerable residents don’t get left behind or wander away from the group.

Consequences of Wandering and Elopement

When residents can’t watch out for themselves, it’s up to the nursing home staff to look out for their safety and well-being. When they fail to do this, the resident can wander off and even leave the grounds in more extreme cases. The consequences of this can be devastating. Here are some examples:

  • Becoming dehydrated or malnourished;
  • Being assaulted by sexual predators;
  • Being hit by vehicles;
  • Drowning;
  • Falling; and.or
  • Missing medication doses.

Get in Touch with an Experienced Nursing Home Attorney

Preventing residents from wandering is a significant part of patient care. When the nursing home fails to stop them from leaving, they endanger a resident’s safety. If your loved one has been hurt due to a nursing home’s neglect, then you may have a valid claim to pursue. Get in touch with a Walton Law attorney who has the experience and commitment to make nursing homes accountable. Contact us today to get started.

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