When you find a nursing home or other care facility for a family member, you assume that the staff will provide appropriate supervision for your loved one. You shouldn’t have to worry about a vulnerable loved one wandering off the premises and getting lost, being struck by a vehicle or becoming the victim of a violent attack. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, nursing homes sometimes fail to properly monitor residents to prevent wandering.
Another term you may hear for wandering is “elopement.” While the terms are often used interchangeably, elopement is typically more purposeful, even when the person who elopes is suffering from dementia. People who elope actually intentionally leave the nursing home, often after multiple attempts.
Who is most likely to wander or elope?
Nursing home residents who suffer from dementia conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to wander or elope. Residents who take certain medications that affect their cognitive abilities, resulting in disorientation or confusion, are also more likely to wander or elope. Sometimes just the stress of moving to a new residence, or feelings of unhappiness about their new situation, can cause an elderly person to try to leave.
What should care facilities do to prevent this problem?
When you’re looking at nursing homes or other care facilities for a loved one, find out what the facility’s protocols are to prevent wandering and elopement. The facility should also have procedures in place for what to do if a resident cannot be found.
Further, the facility should do a risk assessment when it takes in a new resident to determine whether the resident at high risk for wandering or eloping. A person who may never have wandered away from their own home or a family member’s home may still try to do so after they enter a care facility.
If a loved one is harmed because they were able to leave a care facility (even an adult day care center) unobserved and unaccompanied, you may be able to hold the facility liable for its negligence. It is wise to seek experienced legal guidance in these matters.