Elopement from nursing homes may indicate neglect

You carefully chose an Ohio nursing facility because you could not be with your loved one every hour of the day. Perhaps you had some scary moments that brought you to the realization that your loved one's Alzheimer's or another form of dementia was beyond your ability to care for. If you researched and found a home that offered a staff skilled and trained to deal with the behaviors in a patient with dementia, you may have felt you made the right choice for the well-being of your parent.

Unfortunately, one of the most common behaviors in patients with Alzheimer's is wandering. Known as elopement when the wandering takes a patient out of the secured facility, this type of behavior can have tragic results. If your loved one suffered injury or worse during a time of elopement from a nursing facility, you may have many questions about how to seek justice.

The dangers of wandering

It should not be a surprise to the staff of a nursing home when a patient with Alzheimer's wanders out of the building. About 80 percent of elopement involves patients who already have a reputation for wandering, and almost half of those who wander will try to elope within the first two days of moving into a new environment. If your parent wandered out of the nursing facility, he or she was at great risk of falling, exposure to extreme temperatures, missing critical medication doses and other life-threatening events.

Preventing elopement

While it is important for a nursing home facility to have a plan in place for finding and safely returning a resident after an elopement, it is even more critical to have safeguards in place to prevent escapes in the first place. Some of those proactive measures include the following:

  • Careful screening of patients to assess the risk of elopement
  • Additional staff assigned to new residents during the adjustment period
  • Training and retraining so staff will recognize when a patient may be prone to wandering, such as an upsetting event or changes in medication
  • Appropriate alarms and training to prevent staff from becoming desensitized to the sound
  • Constant monitoring of windows, doors and other potential escape routes

The most important protection against elopement is when the staff of your loved one's nursing home takes the time to interact with the residents and offer a consistently high level of care. It is true that nursing home staff members often work long hours with little relief. However, your loved one has the right to quality care and safety during these difficult and confusing years.

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