Elopement: What It Is and the Dangers It Poses to Nursing Home Residents

Woman sitting on a bench alone at a park near pigeons

Nursing home residents are at risk for elopement, which is defined as an unplanned departure from a safe environment. Elopement can have severe consequences for nursing home residents, including physical injury, dehydration, and death. Our Kansas City legal team explores what elopement is, the dangers it poses to nursing home residents, and the importance of legal representation if your loved one has experienced elopement.

What Exactly Is Elopement?

Elopement is a term that describes when a nursing home resident leaves the facility without permission or supervision. It is also a type of wandering. Elopement can happen inside and outside the facility, and it is often difficult to detect until it’s too late. In many cases, elopement occurs due to inadequate supervision by staff members. Nursing homes are required to provide a safe environment and supervise residents 24/7. If they fail to do so, it could be considered negligence or elder abuse.

Other Types of Wandering

While elopement is one type of wandering, there are other reasons why residents may decide to leave a nursing home facility.

Environmentally Cued Wandering

This occurs when a patient responds to environmental stimuli, such as sitting in a chair or following a hallway. These patients must be watched carefully, and staff must be alert to any environmental factors that could trigger the wandering.

Recreational Wandering

This is caused by the patient’s desire for more exercise and exploration. This type of wandering can be addressed by giving the patient more room to move or interact, which should help address any mental reasons for the wandering.

Agitated Purposeful Wandering

This is a particularly dangerous type of wandering because it can involve aggressive behavior towards staff. The cause of this type of wandering may be real or imagined, so it is important to try and resolve the issue so that it does not happen again.

Fantasy or Reminiscent Wandering

This occurs when a patient wanders according to an imagined environment, such as past surroundings. It can be difficult to confront this type of wandering because the patient may not understand the actual surroundings.

How Often Does Nursing Home Elopement Happen?

Nursing home elopement is more common than you may think. In one 2006 study, it was found that 20% of dementia patients will wander at least once from their location. Elopement tends to be more prevalent in residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia but can happen to others if they are not watched.

The Dangers of Elopement

Elopement can have serious consequences for nursing home residents, including physical injury, dehydration, illness, and even death. In some cases, the resident may become lost or disoriented and unable to find their way back home. In other cases, the resident may be preyed upon by strangers who are looking for victims.

If a nursing home resident wanders off, it’s essential to file a report with the facility and notify the police immediately. With legal help, you can investigate whether any evidence of negligence or elder abuse may have contributed to the elopement.

The Importance of Legal Representation

If your loved one has experienced elopement from a nursing home, it’s vital to seek legal assistance immediately. An attorney can help you understand your rights and determine whether the nursing home is liable for any damages. You can hold the facility accountable and ensure that your loved one is safe by taking legal action.

At our Kansas City law firm, we understand the physical and emotional toll elopement can have on a family. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home residents and their families and will fight tirelessly to get them the justice they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation. Our experienced legal team is here to help you every step of the way.

Call (816) 597-4556 for a free consultation or fill out our online contact form.

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