Elopement from Nursing Homes is a Deadly Epidemic

Residents of both Nursing Homes and Assisted living facilities are often suffering from conditions that make their mental status questionable. Often they become disoriented and are not sure where they are. In some of these situations, residents want to leave the facility, also known as elopement. This does not mean the residents are “escaping”, rather they may simply want to walk, wander, or visit people outside of the home.  These wandering episodes can have tragic endings including, drowning, starvation, vehicular accidents all resulting in needless harm and death.

Residents of facilities must be assessed completely upon admission for all risks to their own safety. These assessments must continue during the entire residency for the safety of the residents as well as the community. If the assessments are either not done or not completed accurately, the residents are exposed to needless harm. This is especially true with Elopement or Wandering, as the harm the resident are exposed to is often not in control of the Nursing Homes.

Once a resident is deemed to be at risk for wandering, the Facility must then put a plan in place to help limit this risk and keep the resident safe. These are known as interventions, such as lock down floors, wandering bracelets, additional staff, door alarms and generally doing what is necessary to live up the promises made to the families of the residents when admitted.

It is important to discuss the concept of wandering or elopement with the staff of your loved ones nursing home, the secret to stopping a problem is first understanding one exists. Recently ProPublica has made available to the community the results of inspections of nursing homes, including those with elopement problems. All families should investigate and ask question, it is the only way to keep our loved ones safe.


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