Nursing home placement can bring families peace of mind about the health and safety of vulnerable loved ones. Your family member is likely safer there than alone, but they may still face hazards, especially if they tend to roam.
Wandering and elopement threaten the well-being of many American nursing home residents, but they are preventable. It’s important to understand the risks and consequences of elopement and wandering if your relative resides in a nursing or long-term care facility.
Who is at risk?
Many residents are happy to remain on nursing home grounds, but those with cognitive decline or other issues may have trouble staying in place. Problems like confusion or fear may prompt them to flee the property.
Three elopement risk factors:
- Conditions that cause disorientation, memory loss and confusion (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.)
- Sensory impairments limiting safe navigation (hearing or vision loss, etc.)
- Bi-polar disorder, delirium or issues resulting in episodes of mania
Sometimes, those who are severely depressed, lonely, sad or anxious may also try to elope and return to their homes.
What are the consequences?
Wandering can expose vulnerable individuals to a range of threats. For example, they could suffer injuries from falling or exposure to poor weather conditions. The longer they remain outside the safety of their home, the greater the risk.
Is elopement a form of nursing home negligence?
Yes, it can be. When nursing facilities agree to accept residents, they become responsible for them. They have a legal and ethical duty to protect them from harm and take good care of them. When they fail, the most vulnerable members of our society are the ones who suffer.
Adequate supervision of nursing home residents is mandatory under Ohio law. If your loved one was injured after wandering or eloping, seek legal guidance to explore your remedies.