In the field of nursing home care, we have seen time and again the severity of abusive nurses, nursing aides and other staffers who take out anger and frustration on innocent residents who are there because they need round-the-clock care and attention. Physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse is unacceptable and does not only just lead to regulatory sanctions and civil lawsuits, but criminal charges of the alleged wrongdoers as well. Neglect of residents, though, is another serious issue that has landed facilities and staffers in hot water both in terms of employment and legally. Wandering and elopement are incredibly dangerous threats to the well-being of nursing home residents that result from particular negligence by staffers.
What are Wandering and Elopement?
“Wandering” describes a resident aimlessly moving around the facility. The resident may be found wandering the hall far away from their room when they otherwise should not be, or should at least be supervised. “Elopement,” while similar in theme, specifically describes the actual departure from the facility grounds without supervision or without being noticed by a staffer. Both ultimately entail elements such as cognitive impairment of the resident, and lack of attention and negligence on the part of the facility staff.
Some Past Examples of Wandering/Elopement
Residents, who are commonly older and many of whom suffer from mental inhibitions caused by dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other maladies, are easily confused and can simply wander off if left unattended. We have previously seen such examples where an elderly woman left her room in her wheelchair and ended up falling down a staircase. Another elderly gentleman was left outside, and made his way from a shadier area to sit under the hot sun for hours such that he was burned and dehydrated, all because he was left outside unattended.
Latest Elopement from Chicago-area Nursing Home
In recent news, an awful situation of elopement has occurred in the Chicago area. A 73 year old nursing home resident at a facility in Northwest Side Logan Square simply walked out in the middle of the night, just shy of 3:00am according to local reporting. The Chicago Police issued a missing person alert. The resident reportedly suffers from dementia. Two days later, to everyone’s relief she was found safe and sound, and returned to her family. While this incident fortunately resulted in a positive ending, it nevertheless could have had a much different outcome, and should be a warning to the families and loved ones of nursing home residents with dementia of the risks, as well as a warning shot to nursing homes that they must keep constant and careful watch over patients, particularly the ones more liable to wander and elope away from the building.
Nursing Home Responsibilities
Nursing homes generally must formulate plans of care for their resident patients, and adequate supervision must be a part of any overall plan. This is particularly so where a resident has a diminished mental state for whatever reason, age or infirmity, because that person is at higher risk to wander or elope from a safe area. Nursing homes could face liability in a variety of ways, but beyond the possible ramifications to the facility, the dangers and consequences that could be borne by residents is of paramount concern. Residents could suffer injury and even death as a result of accidents when they wander away, and it is vital to research nursing homes that have strong records and which do not allow such things to happen.
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