Wandering and Elopement

When we trust nursing home facilities with the care of our precious loved ones, we expect them to get round the clock care from qualified professionals who will keep them safe and supervised.

Sadly, sometimes nursing homes fall short when it comes to the care and supervision that is required of them. When nursing homes fail to properly supervise their residents, the consequences can be catastrophic. In some cases, it can lead to episodes of wandering or even leaving the home altogether, known as elopement by residents.

There are legal implications when a nursing home allows a resident to wander or leave the facility., It’s a form of neglect because the resident wasn’t being carefully looked after by staff, which has led to a potentially dangerous situation.

Have you discovered that your loved one was able to wander or leave their facility, putting them at risk? The injury attorneys at Thompson Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have experienced nursing home neglect. Our offices are conveniently located in ChandlerPeoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call.

If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, no worries! We only get paid when you settle. Check out our Attorney Fees Calculator to find out more.

What are Wandering and Elopement?
Wandering refers to a situation in which a resident with cognitive impairments such as memory loss or Alzheimer’s leaves their room or other safe area of a nursing home and moves about the facility without supervision.

Wandering can lead to a fall or other type of injury and residents who are most at risk for wandering are those who suffer from dementia. By allowing someone with cognitive impairments to move freely without supervision, the facility is placing that individual in danger.

When an individual is wandering around the nursing home, they can enter unsafe areas of the facility such as other resident’s rooms, the kitchen, stairwells, and storage rooms.

The most common types of incidents that result from wandering are:
Slips and falls
Resident-on-resident violence
• Burns or cuts
• Missing scheduled medication

When someone wanders, they may leave the facility, which then becomes another type of wandering called elopement.

In this situation, the resident leaves the security of the nursing home and is exposed to the dangers outside. When a resident elopes from a nursing home, they can end up just about anywhere- from down the street, in the woods, or even in another town.

They immediately run the risk of walking into traffic, being hurt by a stranger, or getting lost or stranded in an area where it’s difficult to locate them. The added danger then becomes their exposure to the weather. They will likely not be adequately dressed, leading to dehydration and overheating, or even freezing to death.

What Are the Causes of Wandering and Elopement?
The people most at risk for wandering or eloping from a facility are those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other similar cognitive impairments. Residents with memory loss conditions are most vulnerable to wandering because they forget where they are or feel overwhelmed in their surroundings, which feel unfamiliar to them.

Other factors that can cause wandering or elopement include:

  • Changes in medication or starting a new medication: Certain medications when taken alone or mixed with other medications may increase wandering behavior.
  • Unmet physical needs: If a resident is hungry, thirsty, or needs to use the restroom, they may wander to meet those needs.
  • Unmet social needs: If a resident is missing their family, or is feeling alone or isolated, they could resort to wandering to
    engage with others.
  • Wanting to exercise: Some residents may feel cooped up, bored, or the desire to move around outside of their designated room.
  • Agitation at staff or other residents: Residents can become agitated and may remove themselves from a situation to be
    alone but if they’re unable to remember where they are supposed to be, they could become lost and begin wandering.

Due to the dangers of wandering and elopement, it’s vital that nursing home staff monitor for these types of triggers and supervise residents who are at risk for this type of behavior. Not supervising a resident properly, even if only for a few minutes, could have dire consequences.

How Can Wandering and Elopement be Prevented?
There are many steps nursing homes can take to prevent the likelihood of residents wandering and eloping. The first step is to do personal evaluations for each resident moving into the nursing facility. The home should then determine if the new resident is at-risk for wandering and prepare a personal plan that includes information about their mental health.

Research has shown that wandering can be addressed through personal care plans that respond to wandering behaviors by developing a relationship with the resident and anticipating their needs.

Another important step in preventing wandering and eloping is to educate staff. By making sure employees are properly trained and prepared to supervise and monitor residents, especially those at risk for such behaviors, the facility can lower the risk of wandering and reduce the chances of a resident being seriously injured.

Nursing home facilities should also take steps to secure and monitor entrances and exits as well as offer exercise groups, crafts, or recreational activities that engage the residents. By interacting with residents and keeping them busy, they will be less likely to wander.

What Happens if a Nursing Homes Fails to Supervise Your Loved One?
According to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, every resident in a nursing home is entitled to good, basic care. Since then, most states have passed legislation reinforcing and in some cases strengthening the standard of care required of nursing home facilities.

This care includes an individualized healthcare plan, attention, and supervision. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes meet the level of care required of them. When their failure to properly care for your loved one leads to injuries or death, they must be held responsible.

Here at Thompson Law, we’ve helped many families fight for their loved ones in cases of wandering or elopement. If you or a family member has been the victim of nursing home neglect, our team is here to help.

Give us a call today at (480) 725-4799. We are always happy to answer any questions you have and assist you in this difficult time.

Our experienced attorneys offer comprehensive guidance on all personal injury matters by phone or video conference call.

Our team of lawyers work closely with their injury clients across Arizona, communicating clearly whilst offering reassurance and empathy through an often very difficult and emotional process. During the free consultation, our lawyers will discuss your concerns before creating a comprehensive plan for you, while also assessing the strength of your claim.

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