Nursing Home Wandering and Elopement Lawsuits for Residents
Nursing home neglect lawsuits are often filed for claims of wandering and elopement from a skilled nursing care facility. This is especially a serious problem during cold winter months when a resident can suffer hypothermia in just a short period of time. Deaths often result from cold weather exposure even before a resident is identified as missing.
Wandering can be a safe and healthy behavior for some residents, especially when it involves wandering through the hallways to reduce stress, for exercise, or for activity. Many residents are encouraged to wander inside the nursing home for those purposes.
However, wandering can become very dangerous and even deadly when patients wander or elope from the nursing home. Elopement occurs when a resident successfully leaves the nursing facility undetected and unsupervised and enters into harm’s way. When a patient elopes from a nursing home and suffers harm, it can give rise to a claim for nursing home neglect against the facility.
There are several factors that contribute to both wandering and elopement. These include:
Agitation, anxiety, boredom, or stress
Disorientation to surroundings
Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease affecting judgment
Past patterns of the resident
Elopement often occurs frequently in the first few weeks after a resident is initially placed into a facility. This is often attributed to the change in settings and the desire to return back home. It is incumbent on the facility to prevent his from happening.
The nursing home staff must properly assess a resident for the potential risk of elopement based upon the factors noted above. This includes an initial assessment at the time of admission. Periodic assessments are also required, especially if the resident displays new signs of confusion, disorientation, or even frequent requests to leave the facility.
The nursing home must have an elopement plan for residents identified to be at high risk for wandering. It is essential to have system for supervising and monitoring these residents. And, staff must be alerted to all residents who are at risk for elopement.
Preventive measures include identifying high risk residents with a bracelet on the wrist or ankle and placing photos of the residents near all exits and doorways. Many residents have personal alarms to notify the staff if they attempt to leave the facility. Facility doors should have alarms to notify the staff if a patient is leaving out of a side door or emergency exit.
When a resident unexpectedly leaves a facility and suffers injury or death, the family can file a nursing home neglect lawsuit. Many times, a state or county agency will perform a thorough investigation of the incident and issue violations to the facility. These reports provide an excellent basis for pursuing a civil lawsuit.
In the event of death, surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases demand compensation for the loss of the loved one and money for the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death. Funeral expenses and other losses can also be claimed in the case. These cases are very difficult for a nursing home to defend.