When you think of elopement, you’re probably thinking of the romantic kind—wedding bells, a fabulous destination, and two folks desperately in love. When it comes to nursing home elopement, however, the situation can be dire.
In a legal and nursing home context, “elopement” is the term for elderly people escaping or wandering outside of the home. This is a very dangerous risk. Elderly people are prone to falls and accidents. If they have cognitive impairment, the consequences may be even more unfortunate.
Most of us assume that a nursing home will do its best to watch elderly patients and prevent escapes. If the home isn’t properly trained and able to handle patient elopement, however, it can rise to the level of neglect and abuse.
How is Elopement Abusive or Neglectful?
We trust nursing homes with our loved ones because they should have plenty of trained staff who can keep an eye out—especially if the patient has Alzheimer’s or other degenerative neurological conditions. It’s impossible for one or two people to keep an eye on someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week while at home. A nursing home should have enough staff to notice if a patient wanders off.
However, nursing homes do not always adhere to appropriate standards of care. Elopement can happen when a patient and the facilities don’t have enough staff (or properly trained staff) to prevent these incidents from happening. Alternatively, they might not have appropriate policies in place to prevent this issue.
It’s estimated that at least 60 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s will elope at some point. There’s no excuse for a nursing home to neglect this possibility. What’s even more troubling is that a significant percentage of wandering patients are found dead. Car accidents, prolonged exposure to the cold, and drowning are the most common causes of death. When the patient is in a nursing home, these deaths should be fully preventable. There are also plenty of non-fatal consequences, too, such as falls, broken bones, sprains, and other preventable injuries.
What Should I Do If My Loved One Is Prone to Wandering?
If you think your loved one is an elopement risk, notify their nursing home staff early and often. The more people who understand what’s going on, the better.
When you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call an attorney as soon as possible. Dworken & Bernstein can help you determine your legal options.