When an older person’s physical abilities remain, but their cognitive abilities fade such that they can no longer consistently recognize dangers and keep themselves safe, they are at risk of wandering off and sustaining injuries or death.  Nursing homes must protect residents at risk of wandering off.  Patients with sleep disorders, elevated levels of stress, and aggressive tendencies can also present episodes of wandering.  Nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and other mentally debilitating illnesses, are at a higher risk for elopement.

Elopement and wandering can be dangerous for nursing home residents.  Residents who elope or wander are at increased risk suffer falls-related injuries, like broken bones or head trauma.  They can also be exposed to extreme heat or cold, become dehydrated, or suffer other serious injuries or death.

Nursing homes can reduce the risk of wandering and elopement injury by implementing appropriate policy and procedure, staff training, and quality assurance/improvement activity.  Failure to enforce the necessary security measures to avoid patients from wandering could be a case of neglect on the part of the nursing home. Another example of negligence is if the staff does not act quickly when an alarm goes off signaling a possible wandering patient. Failure to properly train staff on assessment and monitoring for residents at increased elopement risks, failure to recognize, assess, and address a resident’s wandering behavior to prevent elopement, and improper staffing levels are also things to consider in determining how a resident was able to elope from a nursing facility.

 If you suspect a loved one suffered injury as the result of wandering or elopement, a lawsuit may be appropriate. The attorneys at Dworken and Bernstein can help to determine if the nursing home was negligent.

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