Elopement in Nursing Home Residents with Dementia
Posted by PKSD Law Firm on Mar 29, 2017 in Nursing Home Abuse
PKSD has represented families who have lost loved ones due to unsafe wandering and elopement. Elopement and unsafe wandering in nursing homes and assisted living facilities occurs when a resident leaves a facility without the supervision or knowledge of the facility staff. Sometimes the resident intends to exit the facility but more frequently the resident is confused and unsafely wanders out of the facility. When a resident leaves the safe area of the nursing home, his or her welfare, safety and health are put at risk.Sadly, unsafe wandering can be fatal.
Although any resident could elope from a facility, those with dementia are most likely to elope or wander from a nursing home. This is because residents who are confused are prone to unsafely wandering out a door. They are also often cognitively impaired by their condition, which can cause them to forget where they are or what they are doing.
Dangers of Elopement
Elopement is extremely dangerous for dementia or confused residents who can become easily confused as to their location and surroundings. A resident may wander off from the facility and become lost in search of a familiar marker or scenery. He or she may be unable to recognize his or surroundings and find his or her way back to the nursing home.
While the resident wanders, he or she is at high risk of being harmed or exposed to dangerous elements that could have serious effects on his or her health. The most common risks associated with elopement include:
- Exposure to heat or cold
- Being hit by a car
Potential Warning Signs of Elopement
Although a person suffering from dementia can elope at any time, there are several signs that can help identify residents who are likely to elope and help stop it before it occurs:
- The individual has attempted to elope before.
- The individual has a history of wandering.
- The resident has expressed his or her wish to leave the facility, to go “home” or to return to a past routine.
- The individual is restless and agitated.
- The individual attempts to open doors he or she knows should remain closed.
Patients who exhibit these signs should be watched and monitored more closely by the nursing home staff to prevent the individual from wandering or eloping.
How to Prevent Elopement
Nursing home facilities should have clearly defined mechanisms and procedures in place for identifying patients at risk for elopement and preventing those residents from leaving the facility.
There are several preventative actions that you should take:
- Being familiar with the physical, mental and psychological issues and needs of each resident to identify those with the potential to elope.
- Assessing the resident to identify any changes in health, behavior or emotional patterns that may have occurred.
- Ensuring that all exits that are not meant to be used by residents are securely locked.
- Using an alarm system to detect when a resident is attempting to leave. The alarms could be installed on doors, beds, or on the resident as an anklet or bracelet.
- Having live video at the exit doors that can be monitored in real time by staff.
- Identifying any patterns to the potential eloper’s wandering behavior. Determine if he or she begins to wander around the same time each day or if it correlates with any visitors, like spouses, which could make the resident restless.
- Providing the resident with engaging activities and interests that will keep him or her preoccupied and direct his or her focus away from leaving.
- Tracking the resident’s location every few minutes if he or she is at a high risk of eloping.
- Ensuring that staff members understand the possibility of the resident’s attempt to elope and are familiar with his or her behavior.
Experienced Legal Help in Cases of Elopement and Unsafe Wandering
The nursing home attorneys at PKSD are committed to defending nursing home residents against facilities that neglect or abuse the elderly.
PKSD has represented several families who have lost loved ones due to hypothermia after unsafely wandering out of a facility. It should never happen.
If someone you love one is suffering from dementia and has been injured or died after unsafely wandering or eloping from a nursing home, you may have legal options to take action.
Do not hesitate to contact us for a free review of your claim. We can determine if the nursing home is at fault and if your elderly loved one can receive the compensation and justice he or she deserves.
We also only work on a contingency fee basis, so all of our legal and investigative work comes at no expense. We only charge if we help you recover damages for your claim.