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Preventing Elopement in Iowa Nursing Homes

Should You Be Worried That Your Loved One May “Elope”?

Elopement in nursing home patients does not refer to secret marriages. It is a term used to describe the wandering of residents with dementia. Dementia affects memory, orientation, emotional control, and the ability to plan and communicate. If a resident with dementia leaves the nursing home, she could end up lost, injured, or even worse.

Nearly half of Iowa nursing home residents suffer from some degree of dementia. Nursing homes have a duty to protect all their residents and take steps to prevent injury. This means that residents with dementia must be well supervised. The nursing home should be secure enough that the resident can’t accidentally wander off.

There are good and bad ways of doing this. Some nursing homes use latches to confine patients in their rooms. Some use physical restraints to keep residents in their beds. Others prescribe sedatives or anti-psychotic drugs that keep residents docile and lethargic. These practices are dangerous and abusive. Contact a nursing home injury attorney if you notice these practices in your loved one’s residential facility.

The best nursing homes have a multi-layered strategy for preventing elopement. Here are some components of an effective anti-elopement plan:

  • The nursing home has adequate staffing levels.
  • Staff members are dedicated to senior care and have received training on elopement risks.
  • Residents who are at risk of elopement are closely supervised and monitored.
  • Residents who are likely to elope are outfitted with tracking devices that are embedded in bracelets or footwear.
  • There is a formal sign-out system for field trips and visits with relatives.
  • Entrances and exits are secured and monitored at all times.
  • Windows do not open enough for a resident to slip through.
  • There are alarms on external doors, windows, stairways, and elevators.
  • Closed-circuit cameras are used near exits and in public areas.
  • There is a designated recreation area with room for residents to socialize and exercise.

Patients with dementia can be very determined, so no plan is foolproof. The facility should have a response plan in case a resident elopes. The plan should include notification of law enforcement, relatives, and medical personnel.

When a facility has an adequate plan, they may not be responsible for an elopement. But a nursing home can be held liable under any of the following conditions:

  • The nursing home failed to hire enough staff to properly supervise residents.
  • The nursing home did not train staff on appropriate supervision and elopement risk.
  • The nursing home did not have alarms or other safeguards to prevent elopement.
  • The nursing home allowed residents at risk of elopement to exit and enter the nursing home unattended.

If your loved one eloped from Iowa nursing home, you need reliable information about your rights. Contact Hupy and Abraham at 888-807-2752. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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