Wandering commonly indicates memory care facility neglect among residents who have dementia, as people with the condition can exhibit wandering behavior, even in its earliest stages. For many families, memory care facilities seem like the ideal arrangement for loved ones with the disease. Elder adults can still live semi-independently while receiving the security and help they need to stay healthy and safe.
However, when memory care staff members fail to take precautions to prevent potentially dangerous behavior, such as wandering, residents could suffer serious consequences. In these cases, the facility may receive violations, be required to pay fines, or face lawsuits from residents or their families. If a memory care facility did not provide a secure environment for your loved one with dementia, a lawyer could help you seek financial awards.
Prevalence of Neglect in Long-Term Care Facilities
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), we cannot know the extent to which residents of long-term care facilities suffer from abuse or neglect. Even those trained to recognize abuse may not catch it. Residents often suffer from fear of retaliation or do not have the cognitive ability to report their mistreatment.
We do know, though, that 85% of all nursing facilities in the United States reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in 2012. The NCEA also noted that elder abuse remains an underreported issue even though Adult Protective Service (APS) agencies throughout the U.S. show that reported instances continue to increase.
Wandering as a Sign of Memory Care Facility Neglect
According to the Mayo Clinic, wandering in itself does not always present a danger to those with dementia. When allowed to do so in a safe, enclosed environment, it typically does not lead to harm. This makes living alone dangerous for people with the disease, as they may leave their homes and wander into secluded areas or the street. They could end up stranded in inclement weather and not know why they ended up there or how to get home.
Memory care facilities help prevent this from happening by designing living areas that discourage hazardous wandering. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) suggests steps facilities can take, such as:
- Providing clear signage for places, such as bedrooms and toilets
- Keeping seniors busy with activities and exercise
- Removing clutter from walkways and resting areas
- Disguising exit doors with murals
- Maintaining a plan for instances in which an individual leaves the facility while wandering
If you feel the memory care facility where your loved one resides does not prevent wandering, you have a right to report the issue to your local ombudsman for investigation.
For a free legal consultation, call (800) 794-0444
Why Seniors with Dementia Wander
A person with dementia may wander for many reasons. If the facility staff notices the behavior in a particular resident, they should identify triggers and experiences that can lead to it. People with dementia may wander due to the following reasons:
- They may feel stress or fear in a crowded area.
- They search for someone or something that may or may not exist.
- They need something basic, such as using the restroom.
- They feel they need to go to work, pick up their children from school, or follow other past routines.
- They have visual-spatial problems that make it challenging for them to find their way, even in places they know very well.
Memory care facility staff may not always be able to prevent residents from wandering. However, they can and should take precautions to avoid dangerous consequences associated with the behavior.
The Importance of Preventing Episodes of Wandering Among Residents with Dementia
When facilities fail to protect residents from episodes of wandering outside the facility or into areas that could cause the resident harm, their lack of intervention may constitute neglect. Residents should have the freedom to move freely around their living spaces.
They also should have the ability to do so while remaining protected against preventable harm.
How to Report Neglect in a Memory Care Facility
Each state handles complaints regarding long-term living facility care through its ombudsman programs. Ombudsmen work on behalf of citizens to advocate for quality care and handle concerns regarding neglect or other forms of mistreatment on behalf of residents and their families.
If you have raised the issue with administrative staff at the memory care facility where your elder loved one lives, and you feel they have not taken steps to address your concerns, your local ombudsman can help you move forward with your complaint. A lawyer could then help you determine if you can pursue financial recovery in your case.
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Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for Help with Seeking Financial Awards
Wandering can indicate memory care facility neglect. If your loved one has experienced a harmful or potentially harmful situation because the facility failed to protect them, you may have the option to seek financial awards. Call the legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 for a free case evaluation.