Certain nursing home residents present a high risk for wandering or elopement. These residents include those who suffer from depression and anxiety and, in particular, those who suffer from dementia. Nursing homes have a responsibility to address these risks and prevent residents from wandering or elopement.
The following is a description what the terms wander and elopement mean, why these events occur and the potentially fatal risks that wandering or eloping residents face.
Unfortunately, nursing home residents may be allowed to wander or elope due to the negligence of those who have been trusted to look after their health and safety.
Nursing homes may fail to do the following:
- Assess a residentfor wandering / elopement ability, including looking at the resident’s independent mobility, cognitive ability, history of wandering, restlessness or agitation, vocalized displeasure with the facility or stated intention to leave.
- Secure a residentwho exhibits wandering behavior by providing proper supervision, engaging the resident in diversionary activities, using color-coded or alarm-fitted ID bracelets or employing security measures such as bed alarms, door alarms, security cameras and security guards.
- Accommodate and supervise a resident’s need to walk or be active.
- Train staff to effectively manage wandering behaviors through supervision and diversion techniques.
- Establish emergency response procedures when a resident’s wandering or elopement is discovered, including providing a timely report to authorities so that an immediate search can get underway.
Nursing home residents who are allowed to wander or elope run the risk of encountering harm in many forms, including:
A resident may get lost or involved in an accident and suffer harm such as:
- Dehydration — Severe dehydration can cause kidney damage, which may lead to coma or death if not corrected.
- Hypothermia – This can cause confusion, fatigue and loss of consciousness.
- Heat stroke – Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – An estimated 81% of TBIs in adults ages 65 and older are caused by falls.
- Fractures –One in five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.