Nursing home elopement is a serious issue year-round, but it becomes even more prominent during the winter months. This type of elopement does not refer to couples running away to get married. Nursing home elopement occurs when a resident wanders away from the facility without the knowledge of the staff. This can lead to serious injuries and even death in some cases.
Elopement occurs when staff members do not pay close enough attention to the patients in their care, which means they do not provide proper supervision and/or security to the patient. The prime candidates for elopement include residents who have full mobility and some form of mental disease or illness.
Potential Causes of Wandering
Some of the potential causes of wandering in nursing home elopement cases include the following:
- Social needs
- Physical needs
- Memory loss
- Medication side effects
Injuries Suffered during Elopement
When a nursing home patient elopes from the facility, he or she can suffer a litany of injuries before found by staff members or law enforcement personnel. Some of the injuries that can be suffered during elopement include the following:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries such as concussions
- Blood clots
Weather is a Major Issue
Even though elopement occurs year-round, and is a major problem any day of the week, it becomes an even greater problem during the winter months. This is because the cold weather can quickly turn a bad situation into a tragic one.
Cold weather, much like hot days, can have drastic effects on the elderly. When people wander away from a nursing home during the winter months, they are putting themselves in great danger. Depending on the weather, they could fall and get stuck in a snow bank, suffer from hypothermia, or wander onto a frozen body of water that cracks open.
Negligence Related to Nursing Home Elopement
In certain instances of nursing home elopement, the nursing home can be held responsible for the incident. Those instances include any of the following:
- Failure to train staff members on how to properly supervise residents
- Failure to hire enough staff members to supervise residents
- Failure to have alarms or other warning devices to prevent elopement
- Failure to use the proper measures that allow residents to exit and enter the facility on their own
- Hiring staff members who do not respond to an alarm
How to Prevent Elopement
There is no sure-fire way to prevent elopement 100% of the time, but you can perform some tasks that will lessen the risk of elopement should you have a family member living in a nursing home:
- Discuss a prior history of elopement with the new staff members
- Assess the patient for a risk of elopement. Does he or she have Alzheimer’s or dementia or take medications that cause confusion?
- Does the patient have a history of needing restraints?
If your loved one is at-risk of elopement, there are some steps the nursing home should take to prevent an incident from happening. Those steps include the following:
- Monitor all exit doors at the nursing home
- Use alarms on the patient’s bed or room door
- Move the resident to a room that provides more supervision
If you or a loved one has been involved in an elopement incident from a nursing home, contact the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC by calling 1-800-991-0474. You can also fill out the contact form on our website. We will reach out to you within 24 hours to discuss your case.