Preventing the Fatal Consequences of Nursing Home Elopement and Wandering Episodes

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Elopement occurs when a nursing home resident leaves the nursing home facility without permission or notice.   

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 requires nursing homes to provide residents with adequate supervision in order to prevent elopement and wandering while a resident is in their care.

Nursing home residents often suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive problems that result in memory loss and confusion.  There are estimates that approximately 13% of Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer's disease and that 50% of Americans over the age of 85 will develop Alzheimer's disease.  Such cognitively impaired and confused nursing home residents may truly believe that they have to leave the nursing home facility to return home or to work to take care of specific tasks.  In their state of confusion, they may leave the nursing home facility without warning, posing serious risks to their own well-being, as well as to the public safety.

These cognitively impaired nursing home residents must be evaluated in order to assess their risk of elopement and wandering.  For instance, residents may have a history of elopement or wandering; may verbalize plans to leave the facility; may make statements such as "I don't belong here" or "I don't need to be here;" and may repeatedly look for exit doors.

Nursing homes must initiate and (when necessary) revise Care Plans for preventing wandering and elopement.  These preventative measures may include: alarm bracelets and/or tracking devices; monitoring the resident's location at regular intervals; door alarms; window and door locks; installation of monitoring cameras; and redirection during wandering episodes.  The nursing home must also have adequate staffing levels to monitor and oversee all of their residents.  

Nursing homes must also have procedures for quickly responding to elopement incidents including searching the grounds of the facility and notification of local police authorities, family members and possibly the media.  Through interviews with the nursing home staff and family members, it may be possible to determine where the resident may have gone.   

We have seen the fatal consequences that can occur when these preventative measures are not implemented and a vulnerable resident leaves a facility, is hit by a car and suffers serious injury and death.  Fortunately, these tragedies can be avoided so long as the nursing home takes proper preventative measures. 

Please feel free to contact the nursing home attorneys at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of elopement, bedsores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, medication error, elderly abuse or elderly neglect.

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This page contains a single entry by David Feldstein published on August 6, 2009 11:21 AM.

Nursing Home Falls -- Hip Fractures Can Be Deadly was the previous entry in this blog.

Maryland Nursing Home Wrongful Death and Survivorship Lawsuits is the next entry in this blog.

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