Wandering and Elopement Risks in Nursing Homes

Wandering and Elopement Risks in Nursing HomesChoosing the right nursing home for your loved one is already stressful enough without also having to worry about whether the facility can adequately manage any additional medical needs your loved one may require.

In particular, when someone suffers from dementia, the potential for them to wander (become disoriented, get lost, forget how to locate familiar places like the bathroom, etc.) is one of the primary concerns families have. Elopement (wandering away from a home or nursing facility) from nursing homes by residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementia disorder is a serious source of danger and concern; According to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center, six in 10 people with dementia will wander, making it a prevalent issue.

Safety Risks and Side Effects

Studies estimate that up to 31 percent of nursing home residents with dementia wander and are at high risk of injury, even death. Other than obvious safety concerns associated with leaving one’s home or nursing care facility while being disoriented and forgetting key facts, those who suffer from wandering can also be prone to excessive falls, weight loss, social isolation, and abuse by other residents.

According to researchers, there are additional risk factors (in addition to suffering from cognitive impairment) that could make someone prone to wandering: older age, trouble sleeping, those who suffer from becoming easily agitated or aggressive, and men are more prone to suffering from wandering.

What is the Difference between Wandering and Elopement?

Elopement is the most dangerous type of wandering because the disoriented individual typically leaves an area of safety and does not return. Specialists distinguish this category from other types of wandering by individuals who exhibit extremely purposeful and often repeated attempts to leave (i.e. “chronic” wanderers). This is especially dangerous because if a disoriented individual is intent on leaving a nursing home facility, they could walk in front of a car or become vulnerable to abuse and neglect outside of their facility, particularly if their health and welfare depends on 24-hour supervision and care.

What We Can Do to Protect Residents with Cognitive Impairments

After coming up with an initial care plan when a resident enters a facility, medical specialists have recommended that nursing home facilities should regularly assess resident’s propensity to wander and take proactive steps to protect these residents. It is vital that they have enough staff, which are properly trained, and provide for other enrichment activities that can assist those who are prone to wandering and elopement.

Choosing the right nursing home for your loved one is crucial, especially if they suffer from dementia. There are many resources available to those seeking assistance in finding the right facility in Florida, and all highly suggest that you do research, talk to others in the community, and ask a lot of questions when you are choosing a facility, questions such as: Do they have 24-hour nursing care; Provide accommodations for special nutritional needs; Offer any physical therapy; health monitoring and supervision; social and creative activities; and/or respite care?

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration licenses and regulates the health care facilities in the state of Florida and administers Florida’s Medicaid Program. Nursing Home Compare tracks Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes all over the country (including over 15,000 nationwide) with the intent of allowing consumers to compare information about the nursing homes. The state Department of Elder Affairs also provides a list of important questions and concerns to keep in mind in selecting a facility, such as what services they provide, what the contract looks like, if there is a written plan of care provided to family members, etc. Finally, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs provides information related to elder abuse prevention, memory disorder clinics, senior employment, guardianship, etc.

Legal Rights for the Elderly

Fortunately Florida has some of the strongest protections put into place for nursing home residents, including the right to receive adequate and appropriate health care and protective and support services, including social services; mental health services (if available); planned recreational activities; and therapeutic and rehabilitative services (consistent with the resident care plan). Nursing home residents are required to receive adequate supervision to prevent them from dangerous wandering and elopement. If they fail to take the proper steps to ensure that a resident is safe, they could be held legally liable for negligence.

Brill & Rinaldi

If you think a loved one has been neglected while under the care of a nursing home, or you have other questions or concerns related to nursing homes or neglect, it is advisable to contact a law firm with experience dealing in these types of cases. Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm has that experience in this area and knows how to help you and your loved ones. We offer a free initial consultation to help you determine how best to proceed.