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Elopement / Wandering

We have all heard news reports of elderly residents escaping from nursing homes or assisted living facilities unattended who have been seriously injured or killed as a result. Wandering or elopement" from a facility is a preventable occurrence which would never happen if appropriate safety measures are instituted. There are no excuses for a nursing home’s failure to keep residents who are prone to wandering from leaving the premises of the facility. Nursing homes that care for patients who are prone to wander or elope should have the following safeguards in place:

  • Door alarms
  • Window locks
  • Door locks
  • Bracelets that track each resident’s location
  • Adequate staff to monitor residents
  • Emergency plans to locate residents who may wander from the facility

"Wandering" refers to a cognitively impaired person moving about a nursing home or long term care facility without an understanding or appreciation for what they are doing. A nursing home resident’s propensity to wander should be identified in the initial care plan when the resident is first admitted to the facility. Residents who are most likely to wander are those who suffer from Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or who may be heavily medicated.

"Elopement" is when a nursing home resident leaves the nursing home itself without staff knowledge and gets into harm’s way. Elopement from nursing homes occurs among residents who suffer from dementia or who are on medications that cause confusion. Every resident should be assessed for these conditions and appropriate precautions should be undertaken to prevent residents who may be confused from leaving the facility.

If you have a loved one who may be prone to wandering, you must ask the administrator if safety measures are in place and functioning. When a nursing home agrees to provide care for a resident who is disoriented or has dementia, the nursing home implicitly agrees that they are able to proper care for that individual and they are responsible for providing that care. If for any reason a facility believes that it is not equipped to handle a particular resident, they should not accept that resident into the facility. If you have a loved one who has been injured or killed as a result of wandering or eloping from a nursing facility, please contact us at Fenster & Cohen, P.A. and let us help you.