Wandering and Elopement from Facilities

old man in wheelchair

It’s a common enough story in the news: a resident in a nursing home has left the facility and the family is sick with worry trying to find them. The number of nursing home residents with some form of mental impairment or dementia is considerable, and if they are able to leave the nursing home, it is to be expected that they may be unable to find their way back.

Is there a difference between the terms “wandering” and “elopement” in nursing homes or other facilities?

When a resident leaves a safe area, going from their room to another floor or space, it is defined as wandering. Although it may seem safe enough since they have not gone out altogether, having the residents wandering around unsupervised may lead to the resident falling and can also lead to their leaving the facility, which is referred to as elopement.

Why do residents tend to wander?

A wandering nursing home resident may just be walking around with no purpose in mind because they feel stressed or bored or maybe walking with a specific purpose in mind, such as to find a nurse. Another reason many nursing home residents wander is that they are confused and think they are able to return home. This is typical of people with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.

Why is elopement dangerous?

What goes on in the mind of someone that elopes in a nursing home may be difficult to determine. However, a resident who has eloped may simply be trying to go to a home that no longer exists, or visit a relative that has passed a long time ago. Sadly, once a nursing home resident leaves the facility they may find themselves in high traffic areas or encounter extreme weather. While lost, nursing home residents are often to get food or water, miss medication doses, or fall and injure themselves. Eloping from a nursing home is extremely dangerous.

Is elopement preventable?

If adequate policies and procedures are in place, nursing homes and other care facilities are properly staffed, employees are trained to be on the lookout for wandering and elopement and have a plan to maintain a safe environment, elopement can be prevented.

Residents should also:

  • Be monitored and supervised by the staff
  • Be cared for with a comprehensive plan
  • Receive proper supervision and assistive devices aimed at preventing accidents
  • Participate in activities that improve their quality of life
  • Live with respect and dignity
  • Live in a place that uses its resources efficiently and effectively

A Safe Environment Can Be Created

Simple steps can be implemented to create a safe environment to prevent resident elopement, such as:

  • Having a floorplan that is easy to understand and navigate
  • Installing an alarm system
  • Using night lights throughout
  • Not using rugs that can turn into trip hazards
  • Having the required staff
  • Keeping strict records of residents
  • Conducting several checks every day
  • Locking doors
  • Installing video surveillance at exit points

One of the main culprits of elopement is when a facility is understaffed. If residents are unattended or unsupervised for long stretches of time, they tend to wander and, eventually might elope and suffer detrimental consequences.

Call a Lawyer and Get Help

Has your loved one been the victim of neglect or poor supervision by a caregiver or nursing home staff? Contacting a lawyer is essential to your case. Give us a call to put a stop to negligent or abusive practices that endanger the lives of those they are tasked with caring.

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