Wandering or Elopement

Wandering or elopement cases typically involve residents who are physically capable of moving around on their own, but are cognitively impaired. The most likely candidates for wandering behavior would be those residents suffering from Dementia and/or Alzheimers Disease. Wandering behavior is characterized by movement without regard to environmental constraints or hazards and having no specific destination.

Examples of wandering cases include residents wandering off the nursing home premises and being struck by automobiles, residents wandering off the nursing home premises and drowning in a body of water, and residents under-dressed or naked who wander outside the nursing home building during the winter and suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other injuries.

It is important to note that the appropriate prevention of wandering is not the use of chemical restraints (e.g. medication) or physical restraints.

What are the Nursing Home’s Duties?

  1. Identify wanders;
  2. Identify why it has happened. Is it due to confusion, boredom, under stimulation?
  3. Develop prevention programs and activities;
  4. Provide an environment that is safe for wanderers; and
  5. Have a facility wide method in place to mobilize staff immediately to search for a missing resident.

Federal Regulations and Guidelines

42 CFR §483.25(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.

There are many companies that manufacture equipment designed to guard against wandering, such as bed alarms, other alarms worn by patients, or alarms on corridor exit doors. If a resident wanders off, you should ask whether these types of alarms were considered and utilized by the nursing home? If such devices were available at the nursing home, was the staff trained on how to use such devices? If protective devices were available and utilized, were they working properly at the time the resident wandered from the premises?

If someone you love has been seriously injured or killed after wandering away from a nursing home, contact a nursing home injury lawyer at Suthers & Harper. For a FREE consultation, please contact us online through our confidential evaluation form or call us toll free at 1.800.320.2384.

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