You trust a nursing home to care for your elderly parent or family member. But when the facility fails to supervise its residents, they can end up lost and without the care they need. Sometimes, residents can end up leaving the nursing facility altogether. These incidents are collectively referred to as “wandering and elopement,” and they can result in serious consequences, even death. This is what everyone with an older relative should know about such cases, including how nursing homes may be liable.
Wandering happens when a resident walks around the nursing home grounds without supervision. This type of behavior is often seen in patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or otherwise diminished faculties. It is paramount that facility staff know at all times where residents are, especially those with cognitive impairments. Allowing someone to freely roam can place that person, or others, at risk.
Elopement, on the other hand, refers to instances in which residents wander off of the nursing home property entirely. Patients therefore leave the relative safety and security of the nursing home and can end up almost anywhere. Wandering is dangerous enough, but elopement increases the likelihood that injury or even death may occur.
When residents wander freely, they may end up just about anywhere on nursing home grounds. This can include other patients’ rooms. In that event, one person could get into an altercation with and hurt the other. There are also situations in which a patient wander into a kitchen, storage room, or other unsafe area. Without supervision, they could get injured by dangerous equipment that they have no business being near. Other injuries can occur, such as slips and falls. If a patient does not receive scheduled medication because he or she has wandered off, the results could be fatal.
Elopement can aggravate these dangers and introduce new ones. In addition to the risks encountered by wandering, someone who leaves the nursing home will face a myriad of hazards. A resident could walk into traffic and be struck and killed. He or she could end up lost in a heavily wooded area, making it difficult to be found. A patient, exposed to the elements, could suffer dehydration, overheating, or freezing to death. A stranger could attack or kidnap the person as well. These are the risks that a relative tries to avoid by placing the loved one in the nursing home’s care.
Nursing homes can, and should, take steps to lessen the likelihood that either of these unacceptable outcomes takes place. These include:
Educating and preparing staff. All employees should be trained in how to monitor and supervise guests, especially those prone to wandering and elopement. Residents can be assessed to determine their likelihood of engaging in such risky behaviors. And protocols can be adopted to locate, and return to safety, residents who wander.
Security. Steps should be taken to secure portions of the facility which should be off-limits to patients. Adequate security should be employed to monitor exits and entrances.
Prevention. Offering exercise or other recreational activities helps avoid restlessness. Encouraging and training staff to interact with residents helps prevent boredom and agitation, which can lead to wandering. Treating patients with respect will keep them engaged with the nursing home and other guests, reducing the likelihood of incidents.
Don’t Let a Nursing Home Fail Your Parent or Loved One
Nursing facilities are entrusted with the lives, health, and safety of those we care most about. Neglect is therefore unacceptable, especially when prevention methods are largely just common sense. If you suspect that a guest is not being properly supervised, bring it to the attention of management. And if someone you love has been hurt because of nursing home neglect, the nursing home abuse attorneys at Schneider Hammers can help.