Elopement, sometimes referred to as wandering, is defined in the context of the nursing home setting, as a cognitive-challenged resident leaving the facility and exposing themselves to potential dangers. Individuals who are the most at risk for wandering in nursing homes are those who suffer from dementia. It is estimated that approximately half of all nursing home residents suffer from some form of dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. Those residents who suffer from dementia often experience severe anxiety that is associated with not knowing where they are, what they are supposed to be doing, who the people are around them and perhaps not even their own name, which can lead to wandering/elopement.
Unfortunately, the risk of elopement endangerment in nursing homes is on the rise. Over the last several years, the number of reported cases of elopement has increased by 38 percent. When a nursing home resident elopes and leaves the nursing home grounds unattended, they put themselves, and others, at risk of injury. Residents who have eloped may be exposed to extreme heat or cold, suffer a fall when walking over uneven or unfamiliar territory, or suffer severe injuries or death as a result of wandering into traffic or bodies of water.
Elopement by nursing home residents is generally preventable, and usually is a consequence of the nursing home staff failing to meet two specific areas of care: supervision and security. Nursing homes are required by law to provide each resident with the appropriate level of supervision to address elopement and wandering behaviors. Proper supervision by nursing home nurses employees is a critical component to a safe nursing home facility. Moreover, there must be a proper care plan in place to address the security needs of each resident. The ideal care plan is resident-specific and adapts to any changes in a resident’s condition that would impact the safety of the resident. To ensure the care plan meets a resident’s changing needs, the plan must be continually evaluated.
If a parent or loved one has sustained injuries as the result of wandering or elopement from a nursing home, please call the experienced nursing home attorneys at Suthers & Harper. Suthers & Harper, which practices throughout the States of Georgia and South Carolina, regularly represents victims who have been abused or neglected and their families in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. For more information on nursing home abuse and neglect, see the page entitled “Nursing Home Resource Center” at the website of Suthers & Harper, www.sutherslaw.com.