Elopement and Wandering
Many residents of nursing homes are suffering from a disability that affects their mental capacity, such as Alzheimer disease, dementia and delirium. Nursing homes need to have sufficient numbers of adequately trained staff to supervise, monitor and assess the residents to ensure they remain safe. Generally the terms “wander" and “elopement" are used when a resident leaves a part of the facility or the building itself without notifying staff. Senior nursing home residents that wander can get into dangerous situations such as traffic or encountering adverse weather conditions, such as extreme cold, leading to injuries ranging from frost bite to hypothermia and death. Often a senior that leaves the facility can be gone hours before anyone may even notice they are missing from the nursing home. Residents can become disorinented and are often unable find their back to the facility or seek assistance on their own.
Before the development of electronic monitoring devices, such as tag alarms nursing home residents would have more restrictions in their activities to allow for supervision. It is important that the nursing home have enough well trained staff and the necessary monitoring equipment to allow the resident as much freedom as possible, without putting them at risk for injuries related to wandering and elopement.
Generally elopement is used to describe a resident that actually leaves the facility without being observed. Often times a resident that wanders or elopes has orders from their doctor to be supervised and may even be required to wear electronic monitoring. Nursing homes may have insufficient staff to adequately monitor the residents allowing a person to exit the building unnoticed. The facility may have also failed to implement or respond to alarms and monitors designed to alert the staff when a resident leaves a designated area.
Federal nursing home regulations mandate that the operators of the facility ensure that the resident receives adequate supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents.
42 CFR §483.25 (h)
(h) Accidents. The facility must ensure that—
(1) The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and
(2) Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.
How can a Nursing Home Reduce the risk of Wandering and Elopement
· Use of tag alarm that clips on the shirt of resident and alerts when they get up from bed or a chair.
· Use a electronic “wander guard bracklet" or “life alert system" to alert when the resident leaves the floor of the nursing home.
· Make sure that there is adequate staffing levels in the nursing home, sufficient to attend to the needs of the residents.
· Properly monitor the residents who are ambulatory and suffer from cognitive deficits.
Wandering and elopement occurs when such patient is able to depart the building or walk around unsupervised and undetected. All patients have the right to go where they have been determined to require supervision and monitoring to be kept safe. If wandering and elopement occurs, it is often because of the lack of care provided by the nursing staff. It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to ensure that all patients are accounted for.
If someone you love has been permitted to elope or wander and has suffered the consequences, then it is important you contact an experienced lawyer familiar with law pertaining to cases against nursing home facilities. After an incident is important to hold the facility accountable to ensure that the nursing home learns from the incident and implements necessary policies and procedures to keep their residents safe from accidents and injuries related to wandering or elopement. For a free consultation with nursing home abuse and neglect attorney Kenneth L. LaBore call 612-743-9048 or email [email protected].
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