Elderly residents of nursing homes, especially those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, can become confused from time to time. They may forget where they are in the moment and begin to leave the premises, looking for familiar surroundings.
They may become disoriented and forget their original reason for leaving their room, such as to go to the restroom or get food. On the way to a communal area, for example, they may accidentally exit the building while they are lost in their thoughts.
These behaviors refer to wandering and elopement, and according to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), nursing home residents with cognitive impairments may frequently exhibit them. While some episodes of wandering turn out to be harmless, others lead to serious injuries and even death for nursing home residents, as noted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
For example, a wandering resident may slip and fall and suffer a serious hip or head injury. They may go hours or days without food or water if they get lost. They may become the victim of an assault or robbery while wandering.
Ultimately, nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their residents and prevent wandering and elopement. They must supervise patients with cognitive impairments at all times because of their increased risk factors for wandering and elopement. If a nursing home fails to do this, they may be held liable for any injuries and losses that result from the incident.
Falls Can Lead to Severe Injuries for Elderly Adults
One of the greatest concerns regarding the wandering and elopement of nursing home residents is their risk of falling. Not only do elderly adults have a higher likelihood of falling, due to imbalance or frailty, but they also face more severe injuries and longer recovery times.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when they experience hip injuries, their general health can decline as well as set them up for another fall in the future. Falls constitute worse injuries for elderly adults, so nursing homes need to prevent any behavior that puts them at risk for a falling incident.
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Nursing Home Laws and Regulations
Aside from ensuring residents do not wander off the premise, nursing homes have a duty to uphold a standard of care so that caregivers adequately meet the needs of the residents. According to H.R.3545 – Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, any nursing home that wants to receive Medicare must abide by certain criteria and regulations that ensure the rights and safety of their residents. Provisions in this act also extend to meeting the psychological needs of residents.
The act mandates a certain number of trained staff must always be available to assist and supervise the residents. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), some nursing homes even have special units for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Residents in these nursing homes may also receive help from caregivers who have special training for managing patients with cognitive impairments.
All nursing homes must also keep detailed patient files for each resident to help identify any areas of concern, which could include risk factors for wandering and elopement. There is no excuse for a resident going missing or suffering an injury due to wandering off the premise.
Caregivers and administrators have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their elderly adults, regardless of their mental conditions. If a nursing home failed to follow protocols that secure the premise and prevent a resident from wandering or eloping, they may be liable for any injuries and losses that a resident endures as a result of leaving the property.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC for Help with a Wandering and Elopement Case
Mental issues, cognitive impairments, and dementia classify as risk factors for wandering and elopement in nursing home residents. Nursing homes and their caregivers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their patients, and one of the dangers includes wandering and elopement. These behaviors can lead to severe injury or even death.
If your elderly loved who one lives in a nursing home wandered off the premise and suffered an injury, you may qualify to seek compensation from the nursing home. You do not have to take on a claim or lawsuit alone. You have the right to seek legal representation.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC can help you file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against a negligent nursing home that allowed your loved one to wander away and get hurt. To learn more about your legal options, call us at 800-959-1444.