Nursing home patients who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other cognitive disorders are at an increased risk of wandering or elopement. Wandering refers to a resident’s ability to move about the facility at will, and elopement refers to residents who walk out of the facility altogether. Both of these put residents at risk because they often do not know what to do when they are outside of their usual environment, which can result in injury to the patient—or even death.
Many people may decide on a nursing home for their loved one because they believe better care will be available in a professional setting. But when wandering and elopement happen because of negligence on behalf of the nursing home staff, the end result can be devastating.
If you believe your loved one was hurt because the nursing home staff were not doing their job in preventing wandering and elopement, you may have a case for nursing home abuse. You need to contact an Atlanta wandering and elopement lawyer at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. For no charge, one of our team members can review the details of your case. Call us to set up a free consultation with a member of our staff.
Why Nursing Home Residents Wander
Nursing home residents who are prone to wandering are usually experiencing some kind of mental decline. This can occur because of a disease or illness, but some medications can also contribute to this state and contribute to wandering behavior.
Other reasons for wandering can include the following:
- Patients who are disoriented and unsure of where they are
- Patients who are seeking to fulfill a perceived need, such as searching for something to drink or for the restroom
- Patients who have visions problems
- Patients who are looking for a loved one
- Patients who are simply bored
Nursing home staff members have a duty to ensure the safety of residents, and negligence or abuse can lead to serious consequences for elderly individuals that wander or elope.
What Causes Nursing Home Residents to Leave the Facility
Also called elopement, many instances of residents leaving a nursing home facility happen soon after the resident arrives. Patients with mentally debilitating illnesses can be confused in a new environment. Often, they have a memory of a dog they think they need to feed or a child they need to care for, and this can trigger a belief that they must leave.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are not the only people who are prone to wandering and elopement. Some side effects of a medication may cause confusion and lead to wandering. Patients with sleep disorders, according to Mayo Clinic, may also wander or elope from a facility.
If your loved one is prone to wandering, be sure to alert the nursing home when the patient is admitted. When the nursing home does not take adequate steps to protect your loved one and keep them safely inside the facility, and an injury or fatality results, you can call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. If you want the help of an Atlanta wandering and elopement lawyer, we can conduct a review of your case for free.
For a free legal consultation with an wandering and elopement lawyer serving Atlanta, call (800) 842-6336
How Nursing Homes Can Take Precautions Against Wandering and Elopement
The Nursing Home Reform Act, which legislators passed in 1987, means that nursing homes can be held responsible for wandering or elopement when they fail to provide adequate supervision of its residents to keep them from leaving the building.
Nursing homes need to be aware, from the time a resident first comes to the facility if this person has a propensity toward wandering. Usually family members who have been caring for the individual can alert nursing homes—and it is often this behavior that precipitates a family making the decision to seek professional care for their loved one.
Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s are particularly high risk for having an inclination to roam the facility itself—or to simply walk out of its confines. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia can become confused and wander or elope.
The first step toward preventing wandering or elopement is conducting an adequate assessment to identify patients who might be prone to it. This can include questions such as:
- When did the wandering behavior begin?
- How frequently does the patient wander?
- Does the patient have more of a tendency to wander during the day or at night?
- Does the wandering seem to have a purpose (such as searching for a loved one or a particular place)?
Once a facility knows about a patient’s tendency to wander, everyone on staff needs to know about it. Electronic equipment, such as tracking devices and bed and door alarms, as well as adequate staff supervision must be in place.
If a resident goes missing, facilities need to put the following types of safeguards into place:
- Have an alert system in place to signal to staff that a resident is missing. The facility should have standard operating procedures for staff to follow in this event.
- Conduct thorough and systematic searches of the facility, including rooms, closets, stairwells, and any other places that residents can access.
- Search the outdoor space surrounding the facility, including roadways and bodies of water.
- Notify family members and police.
- The facility should also conduct an investigation to determine how the elopement happened and what changes they can make to prevent another occurrence in the future. It should make changes to procedures based on the results of this investigation, including additional staff training and security measures.
Atlanta Wandering and Elopement Lawyer Near Me (800) 842-6336
Contact an Atlanta Wandering and Elopement Lawyer
If your loved one was injured or killed as a result of wandering or elopement because of negligence on the part of the nursing home staff, you can contact an Atlanta wandering and elopement lawyer. Pursuing these cases may be able to help prevent the same thing from happening to another nursing home resident and their family. The team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can go over the details of what happened and provide you with a free, no-obligation case review. Call us today to learn more.