Nursing home elopement is probably not what you think it is. Nursing home elopement occurs when an elderly person wanders away from their long-term care facility. There are many reasons why an elderly person may wander off, and most commonly, it occurs due to dementia-related issues. Nursing home staff members are supposed to provide top-notch care and a safe environment for all residents, but especially those who have a high risk of elopement. Wandering patients have a high risk of suffering serious injuries and even death. So if nursing home facilities fail to prevent and handle elopement cases, the family members of the wandering patient can definitely sue.
If your elderly loved one has suffered serious injury, illness, or death due to nursing home abuse and neglect, you have grounds to file a civil lawsuit on their behalf. San Antonio nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Janicek Law have decades of combined experience in helping clients obtain justice and financial compensation for their suffering. We can do the same for you too. Call 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.
What is Nursing Home Elopement?
The elopement definition that most of us know is when a young couple has a spur-of-the-moment wedding without parental knowledge or consent – usually in another city or state.
However, that’s not what nursing home elopement is. Nursing home elopement is when an elderly patient wanders away from their nursing home facility or assisted living facility.
Why Does Nursing Home Elopement Happen?
Most elopement cases involve nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments. In fact, 60% of elderly patients with dementia-related issues wander away from their long term care facilities at least once according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, elderly residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s often wander (or attempt to wander) more than once.
Nursing home residents may also wander due to the following reasons:
- Medication changes
- Taking too much medication
- Unwelcome change in their environment or lifestyle
- Living in a nursing home for the first time
- Unmet physical or psychological needs
- Confusion or delirium
- Elevated levels of physical or emotional stress
- Lack of sleep
- Missing a family member or a friend and wanting to visit them
Nursing Home Elopement Risk Factors
Some elderly residents have a higher risk for elopement than others. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is definitely the biggest risk factor for wandering, but other risk factors include:
- Sleep disorders
- Any type of mental impairment such as confusion, delirium, anxiety, PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
- Aggressive tendencies
- Physical conditions that require many types of medications
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Prior incidents of wandering
Dangers Associated With Nursing Home Elopement
Nursing home elopement is incredibly dangerous. Wandering away from a long-term care facility can result in serious injury and even death. An elderly person could suffer from the following issues by wandering away:
- Fall injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and broken bones
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Poor weather events
- Busy streets and sidewalks with lots of traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles which raise the risks of accidents and injuries
- A medical emergency such as a heart attack
- Medication withdrawal
Is Nursing Home Elopement a Sign of Abuse or Neglect?
Nursing home staff members can take every possible measure to prevent a patient leaving the facility, and the patient could still leave anyway. But yes, elopement can indicate that nursing home neglect and abuse is occurring. Poor patient care that results in hungry, thirsty, bored, lonely, sick, and stressed patients can lead to a greater risk of patient wandering.
How Nursing Homes Should Prevent Elopement
Because many of the residents in nursing homes have at least one of the aforementioned elopement risks, the facilities must prioritize necessary security measures, personal safety needs, and overall patient care. At minimum, the federal nursing home regulations require nursing homes to do the following:
- Create a comprehensive and individualized care plan for each patient.
- Make sure that all residents are properly supervised and have equipment to prevent falls, choking injuries, etc.
- Create the best possible quality of life for each resident.
- Treat all residents with respect and dignity.
- Utilize all nursing home resources efficiently and effectively.
For residents that have a clear history of elopement, nursing homes should take the following safety precautions:
- Ensure there is adequate lighting in all areas of the facility.
- Have a circular floor plan.
- Have quality alarm systems that work.
- Remove all slip, trip, and fall hazards like cord, debris, rugs, etc.
- Ensure that residents have wristbands that indicate they’re at high risk for elopement.
- Ensure that the facility is properly staffed not only to provide quality care, but to remain vigilant of all resident’s behaviors.
- Regularly check on all patients, especially those who tend to wander off.
- Keep updated records about all residents’ elopement histories.
- Change all door codes on a regular basis.
- Make sure all nursing home doors have video surveillance and security personnel.
- Set up a proper exit procedure for all residents and visitors.
Nursing home facilities should also provide top-notch psychiatric care for all residents, but especially high risk residents. This means that residents should have access to therapists – to discuss their thoughts and feelings – and psychiatrists – to ensure that they are properly medicated for their psychological and neurological problems.
Additionally, there are many tools that nursing homes can use to determine how likely a patient is to wander off. One of these tools is called the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI), which is a rating scale that can determine how likely a patient is to engage in 29 possible behaviors, one of them being elopement. From there, nursing homes can have a better idea of what security measures, activities, and medications can help prevent these possible behaviors.
Can You Sue for Nursing Home Elopement?
Yes, you can sue for nursing home elopement, especially if you can prove that it was the result of nursing home neglect and abuse, and especially if the resident became injured or ill during the elopement. You can also sue the assisted living facility if they knew that their resident was prone to wandering off, and yet they still failed to implement elopement prevention tactics. These tactics require lots of time, resources, and proper staffing which – unfortunately – many nursing homes don’t have.
The bottom line is that it’s the job of the nursing home to provide top-notch care for their residents, and if they fail to do this – which results in injury, illness, or death of the patient – family members of these patients have the right to sue.
Damages for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
San Antonio nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can help family members recover financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation bills
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Funeral and burial expenses if the elopement results in wrongful death
Call a San Antonio Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer at Janicek Law
If you have substantial proof that your loved one’s assisted living facility is acting negligently – which results in a dangerous elopement incident – you have grounds to file a civil lawsuit. San Antonio nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers are passionate about protecting the rights of elderly residents and ensuring that they receive the best care possible in their final years of life. Call 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.