A nursing home is not a jail. Residents should have the right to move around freely as long as they can safely do so.
However, some residents require significant supervision. They cannot move around the nursing home grounds—or worse, leave the facility—without accompaniment, or they may be hurt. Most residents who leave the nursing home without supervision have cognitive or mental impairments. They do not realize the risk, they may not be dressed for the weather conditions, and they may have difficulty remembering how to get back or how to tell law enforcement who they are or where they live.
Wandering and Elopement Can Be Dangerous
In the realm of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, wandering refers to a resident who moves or “wanders” within the facility without concern for personal safety. “Elopement” occurs when the wandering resident leaves the facility unsupervised and unnoticed. Wandering and elopement can result in serious injury and even death.
It is the responsibility of the nursing home to take substantial precautions to prevent elopement or wandering.
The Failure to Prevent Wandering and Elopement Can Be Nursing Home Negligence
Nursing homes may prevent wandering and elopement by:
- Performing individual elopement assessments on each resident. These should occur when a resident first moves to a nursing home, when there is any significant change in physical condition or medication, and at regular intervals throughout the year.
- Having a plan of action in place if a resident is discovered to be missing. Additionally, staff should have drills to practice what to do in this kind of emergency situation.
- Having alarms on unit doors and external exits. This may alert staff to a potential problem before it becomes a tragedy.
- Using resident-tracking devices. Tracking bracelets, for example, could alert staff as soon as s resident exits the facility.
- Having adequate staff to meet resident’s needs. This includes regular attendance checks and providing increased supervision to residents with a higher risk of wandering or elopement.
- Planning for specific risks. This may include when individual residents become agitated or when there is a large number of people entering or exiting the facility, such as during a shift change or the end of visiting hours.
- Provide for physical activity and other organized activities for residents who are at risk of elopement. This may make them less likely to wander.
In these ways, nursing homes can prevent the dangers of elopement or wandering.
Take Action If Your Loved One Has Been Hurt
If you have a loved one who has been allowed to wander or elope and as a result sustained any type of injury, report the incident to the appropriate state agency responsible for monitoring nursing homes and request an investigation of the resident’s claims of abuse.
- Wisconsin clients contact Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Quality Assurance at 800-642-6552
- Illinois clients contact Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-252-4343
- Iowa clients contact Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals at 877-686-0027
Then, contact the experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Hupy and Abraham to ensure that your loved one is fairly and compassionately compensated for the injury she suffered due to this type of nursing home neglect. Call 800-800-5678 anytime—24/7/365—for a free consultation.