When older adults move into nursing homes, their relocation is often based on concern for their well-being. Family members worry that they could end up hurt when no one is there to care for them or that they could end up confused and might wander off, which could lead to injury or worse for the older adult involved.
Sadly, even though people move loved ones into nursing homes to avoid elopement, which is the term for someone wandering off without supervision or support, it is a known risk at many assisted living and long-term care facilities. Older adults who leave nursing homes could end up sickened because they don’t receive prescription medication that they require or injured if they end up exposed to the elements or wander into traffic.
Nursing home facilities can and should take steps to keep their residents safely inside. Those that fail may be liable for the consequences of these often-preventable incidents.
Elopement is preventable in most cases
Many nursing homes have special wards for those with memory issues or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. These specialized spaces often only have a few entrances that are secure. No one should be able to leave or enter without the knowledge of the staff or special electronic key cards. Unfortunately, lax supervision, poor staff practices and outright neglect could lead to an older adult getting out of a nursing home and ending up injured and in need of medical care. Such systemic failures require correction.
If a nursing home has failed one older adult, then the chances are good that something equally dangerous could happen to someone else in the future. Taking action when neglect in a nursing home leads to an older adult’s injury or illness can both help cover the costs created by the situation and prevent it from occurring again.
Facilities that know a patient has a history of wandering off or medical conditions that make elopement a concern should have protections in place before an incident even occurs. From a secure room and regular staff check-ins to having a room in a locked ward that someone cannot exit without a key card, there are many layers of protection that can help keep someone within the safety of a nursing home.
Seeking legal guidance and pursuing a nursing home neglect claim after an elopement incident can help a family cover its expenses and hopefully prompt a facility to change its practices.