What are some signs of Wandering and Elopement?
Wandering and elopement often occur among nursing home residents who suffer from conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. In many cases, wandering and elopement lead to injury or even death. Unexplained injuries and the presence of dementia or Alzheimer’s may be warning signs of wandering and elopement.
When nursing home residents wander, they may leave their room and wander through hallways or into other residents’ rooms. Elopement refers to the act of leaving a safe area, such as a nursing home, by a person with decreased mental capabilities.
Signs that a person may be at a higher risk for wandering and elopement include a history of wandering or a history of attempted elopement, behaviors such as agitation, restlessness, and an expressed wish to leave or go to another location. This may include trying to open doors, or simply stating the desire to go home or go to work.
Conditions like bad weather and exposure to the elements can make wandering and elopement especially dangerous for elderly nursing home residents. Residents may also sustain injury or become lost after leaving the nursing home facility.
What should I do if I suspect my loved one has been a victim of Wandering and Elopement?
If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of wandering and elopement, you should speak to nursing home staff to find out if your suspicions are correct. If the nursing home confirms your suspicions, or if you suspect the nursing home of lying to you about your loved one’s wandering and elopement, you should report the nursing home for neglect and contact a lawyer to advocate for your loved one’s legal rights.
Wandering or elopement by nursing home residents is often a sign of neglect on the part of nursing home staff and caregivers. Call Georgia Healthcare Facility Regulation or contact a local ombudsman and tell them about the incident so they can investigate.
Then consult one of our Georgia nursing home neglect lawyers to find out if you have a case against the nursing home, and if your loved one can receive money in damages for the facility’s neglect. If your loved one died as a result of wandering and elopement, you may be able to file for wrongful death and survival action, and receive monetary compensation for your loss.
What should a nursing home do to prevent Wandering and Elopement?
Through educating staff, monitoring patients with memory loss, and ensuring a safe environment, nursing homes can greatly decrease the risk of wandering and elopement.
Nursing homes should educate caregivers and all staff members – including staff who work at the front desk or in the kitchen – on the risks of wandering and elopement for residents, and should train caregivers in preventing residents from wandering. When a resident is found wandering, staff should report the incident immediately, and precautions should be taken to prevent the incident from happening again.
Nursing homes should offer regular opportunities for exercise and social activities, so residents don’t become restless and feel the need to wander.
Facilities should be equipped with locks or alarms, and staff should respond immediately when an alarm sounds. Supervisors should always be present and aware to prevent residents from leaving.
Additionally, caregivers should assess each resident for factors like dementia and Alzheimer’s which might increase the risk of wandering and elopement, and should develop a specific, individual care plan for each resident. If a resident wanders, nursing homes should record the incident, report it to the resident’s family, and take extra care to supervise that resident from then on.
Can the nursing home be held responsible for Wandering and Elopement?
Since there are many steps a nursing home should take to prevent residents from leaving the facility, a nursing home can be held responsible for wandering and elopement. This constitutes an act of nursing home neglect, which is illegal.
When a nursing home is guilty of neglect, it means they have failed to use reasonable care to protect residents from harm and to uphold the rights and freedoms which nursing home residents are entitled to under Georgia state law. Acts of negligence could include failing to respond when an alarm goes off, not allowing residents to exercise or interact with others, or failing to assess a resident and develop a care plan soon after the resident enters the nursing home.
When a nursing home is guilty of neglect, the facility may be required to compensate the resident for any medical expenses, pain, and suffering incurred because of wandering and elopement. If wandering and elopement has led to the death of a resident, then the facility may be required to compensate the resident’s family, in what is known as a claim of wrongful death or survival action.
Why does Wandering and Elopement occur in nursing homes?
Many nursing home residents suffer from mental conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s, which can cause their minds to wander. In fact, over 34,000 elderly people with Alzheimer’s wander from their homes every year, and around 24 percent of nursing home residents wander annually.
There are several reasons a resident may wander. Sometimes, environmental settings such as a clear hallway trigger a stimulus in a resident’s brain, causing them to wander into the empty space. In other cases, a resident may wander due to a need for exercise, or simply to relieve agitation caused by a medical condition, life stressors, or just the act of sitting for too long.
Residents with impaired memory may wander out of a desire to go home or go to work or to another location. Residents may be unaware of their surroundings or believe they are somewhere else. Or they may wander for a specific reason, whether that reason is real or imagined.
Elopement often occurs in nursing homes where supervision is lax, or where there is an inadequate number of staff to constantly monitor residents. Sometimes, staff members mistake residents for visitors and allow them to leave the nursing home.