When a loved one moves into a nursing home, we expect that their care will be handled by qualified professionals who will monitor their residents for their safety. Unfortunately, an alarming percentage of nursing home residents wander away from their respective facilities without proper supervision.
Nursing home residents who leave their care facilities without staff knowledge or supervision engage in wandering and elopement behavior and run the risk of personal harm. Residents living with Alzheimer’s or dementia remain particularly vulnerable to this type of behavior that may lead to injuries. Knowing the causes of wandering and elopement may help caregivers and relatives prevent this dangerous behavior in nursing home residents.
The Need for Personal Evaluations
When moving into a nursing home facility, each resident should receive an individualized medical plan that includes information about their mental health. Some residents live with certain conditions that make them more prone to wandering. According to research from the Administration for Community Living, caregivers may resolve wandering through individualized care to respond to wandering and exit-seeking behaviors, which includes developing a relationship with the resident so that they may anticipate their particular needs and behaviors.
Every nursing home resident is entitled to good basic care, according to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. Additionally, most states have legislation that reinforces the belief that good nursing home care includes individualized attention and supervision. Unfortunately, not all nursing home practices meet the standard of care. When they fail to do this and their failure results in injuries, they may bear liability.
People Who Live with a Higher Risk of Wandering
Those suffering from dementia may experience memory loss and impaired cognition that may cause them to wander. If your loved one remains mobile but has not received a formal diagnosis of any cognitive diseases like dementia, wandering may signal a need for a medical evaluation. Formally diagnosed or not, your loved one deserves a care plan that considers potential risks brought on by age-related diseases.
To mitigate the negative consequences of wandering, caregivers should practice re-evaluating each patient’s needs individually throughout their time in a nursing home.
Causes of Wandering and Elopement
Expressions of unmet needs may pertain to physical, social, or emotional issues that the resident has trouble communicating otherwise. Caregivers should consider an individual’s circumstances for good care in a nursing home.
- Unmet Physical Needs: A nursing home resident may wander if they get hungry or thirsty, need to use a restroom, or need to exercise. Wandering may result as the body’s physiological response to addressing these unmet needs without extra help from nursing home staff.
- Unmet Social Needs: If a nursing home resident is feeling isolated, wishes to see her family, or wishes to be alone, she may resort to wandering. Engaging the resident with activities that entertain and inspire them may prevent this.
- Unmet Emotional Needs: Emotional needs go hand-in-hand with physical and social needs. Emotional agitation can be real or imagined. If the nursing home resident feels as though she does not have a sense of independence or dignity, emotional neglect may be occurring. Nursing home law requires that caregivers maintain the highest sense of independence and dignity possible.
While you may suspect any or all of these reasons as the cause of your loved one’s wandering, you may not understand the best way to resolve the issue. Remember that wandering can happen as a sign of neglect or abuse in a nursing home. Even the slightest cases of nursing home abuse or neglect can lead to any of the above unmet needs. A good nursing home lawyer may help protect your loved one’s rights and may give you peace of mind while you help your loved one recover from any injuries.
Consider a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer
If your loved one suffered harm in a nursing home after a wandering or elopement incident, a lawyer may help explain your legal options. Not all cases of nursing home abuse or neglect happen intentionally, but the staff and administration may still hold responsibility for any injuries your loved one suffered.
If your loved one in a nursing home suffered from a wandering incident, our lawyers may help you protect their rights. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336.