Unfortunately, it is all too common for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to wander. Six in 10 patients with dementia wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Even non-ambulatory residents, like those in wheelchairs, might elope. Elopement can be dangerous. Outside of a nursing home, individuals with dementia may get lost and confused. Some still may fall and injure themselves, while others may try to cross a street and get hit by traffic.
While elopements are common, they are also preventable. Nursing homes are responsible for patients entrusted to their care, especially those whose mental faculties might be slipping. Indeed, wandering and elopement are results of neglect. There are steps nursing homes can and should take to keep their residents from doing these two behaviors.
If you suspect that your loved one was injured or died after eloping from a nursing home—whether or not the nursing home has admitted that they wandered—consider consulting an Austin wandering and elopement lawyer at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Let our team investigate the situation on your behalf. Our legal team works on a contingency basis, which means you will never have to pay us until we collect compensation on your behalf. Call our office today at (800) 842-6336 to schedule your free consultation.
The Reasons Why Patients Wander
Wandering is purposeful behavior that usually happens when one feels either physical or emotional discomfort. That is, wandering is triggered when one feels they must meet certain needs. There are many factors that increase the likelihood that a person with dementia will wander, including:
- An unfamiliar environment
- A recent change in medication
- Being left alone
- Changes in routine or schedule
- Being spatially disoriented to familiar cues
- Demonstrating a desire to engage in past practice, such as visiting a relative or going home
Research from the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias
found that the residents’ environmental conditions, like location and sound, played a role in wandering, as well, and better environmental design might make residents less likely to elope.
However, the key to preventing elopements is awareness, according to another study in the same journal. An analysis of elopements identified patterns including:
- “a lack of effective precautions to prevent elopement when residents had indicated an intent to elope, had repeatedly attempted to elope, or had a history of elopement”;
- “a lack of awareness by the staff of resident location”;
- “ineffective use of alarm devices intended to alert staff to elopement attempts.”
What Nursing Homes Can Do to Prevent Elopement
Federal regulations require nursing homes to create a safe environment for each patient, whether or not they have dementia. For example, 42 Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) §483.21 requires nursing homes to develop a comprehensive patient-centered care plan within 48 hours of admission.
It may not be possible to prevent all forms of wandering, in the sense of a patient wandering from a safe, designated area. However, with the proper supervision and adequate policies in place, nursing homes can prevent elopements, which can expose patients to dangerous situations.
When they fail to do so—often as a result of understaffing or inadequate safeguards—this is considered negligence. Negligent nursing homes be held accountable.
If your loved one has suffered or died as a result of a nursing home’s negligence, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to see how an Austin wandering elopement lawyer can help you with your loved one’s case.
For a free legal consultation with a Wandering and Elopement Lawyer serving Austin, call (800) 794-0444
Taking Legal Action
From a legal perspective, negligence occurs when one party owes another a duty of care, breaches that duty, that breach leads to injuries, and those injuries cause damages that warrant compensation. A nursing home has a duty to care for your loved one; if your loved one is injured or killed while eloping, the nursing home has breached that duty, and your family is entitled to compensation.
Damages and Limitations
Texas does not cap the amount you can recover in economic or non-economic compensatory damages. Economic damages refer to actual monetary losses, such as hospital bills. Non-economic damages refer to compensation for such things as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and other non-monetary losses.
In both personal injury or wrongful death cases, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §16.003 requires plaintiffs to bring a lawsuit within two years of the date of injury or death. With that, it is crucial for victims and their families to act quickly to pursue any type of compensation. Failure to meet this two-year statute of limitations means that you and your loved one may not be able to obtain any type of financial award, even if your case qualifies for it.
However, it is important to note that in special circumstances, the statute of limitations may be extended. You may want to consider consulting a lawyer about these laws to make sure your lawsuit is submitted to the courts in a timely manner.
Austin Wandering and Elopement Lawyer Near Me (800) 794-0444
How We Can Help Your Loved One
An Austin wandering and elopement lawyer at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will review your case and help you evaluate your legal options. All of our attorneys work on contingency, which means you will owe us nothing until we recover damages on your behalf. Find out how we can seek justice for your loved one. Call our offices today at (800) 842-6336 to schedule your free consultation with one of our team members.