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The dangers of nursing home elopement and wandering

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2022 | Nursing Home Abuse

Whether you’re looking for a good nursing home or other care facilities for a parent or other elderly family member or you already have a loved one in a facility, it’s crucial to know about elopement. 

Elopement in this context has nothing to do with marriage. It occurs when a person who is impaired by dementia and/or medications or other factors leaves a care facility without anyone noticing. 

The difference between elopement and wandering

Sometimes people confuse elopement with “wandering.” However, they are different behaviors. A resident who wanders is still somewhere in the facility or at least on the grounds, but – at least for a time – they can’t be located. Like elopement, wandering can be dangerous. They can fall, ingest a toxic substance they think is food or drink or otherwise suffer harm. However, it’s typically easier to find them than if they somehow got off the property.

Nursing home care professionals note that wandering isn’t as “purpose-driven” as elopement. Residents who elope may think they’re going home or may just be determined to get out of the facility. Elopement is more likely to occur in a person’s early days in a facility.

A person who has eloped is at risk of serious and potentially fatal harm. They can be hit by a vehicle, drown (even in a shallow pond) or suffer frostbite, sunstroke or other condition caused by being outside for too long. They also are at risk of a brutal attack.

Care facilities have an obligation to prevent elopement and wandering

Even if your loved one hasn’t shown signs of dementia, it’s still crucial to make sure that their nursing home has safeguards in place to prevent both wandering and elopement. They should also have a protocol that everyone follows when a resident can’t be located.

Even people without cognitive impairment can be affected by new medications (or a medication given in error or in the wrong dosage). A person who’s new to a nursing home can wake up in the middle of the night and not know where they are. 

If your loved one has been injured or worse because of an elopement or wandering incident, you have a right to get to the bottom of what happened. Don’t let the management or staff make excuses for their negligence. It’s important to seek legal guidance to seek justice and compensation for your loved one.