Cognitive decline can plunge nursing home residents into a state of confusion. They might wander off looking for something familiar. This can be their own home or a loved one or simply to get away from the facility. Sadly, many slip away unnoticed and expose themselves to grave danger. Some even face tragic ends.
As a nursing home facility, you bear a significant responsibility. You must ensure resident safety, which includes preventing elopement and wandering. Apart from ensuring the safety of your residents, having appropriate measures in place can also shield your establishment from potential legal ramifications.
What causes nursing home elopement or wandering?
Wandering is when the resident moves around the facility without supervision, while elopement is when they leave the facility entirely. Regardless, both situations can put the resident in harm’s way.
Residents may elope or wander due to various reasons. At times, it can be due to confusion or disorientation brought on by cognitive decline. However, boredom or curiosity may also motivate residents to leave the facility.
Dangers of nursing home elopement
Unsupervised wandering comes with significant risks. Residents may slip and fall, suffer from exposure to harsh weather conditions or become victims of crime. There have been cases of residents dying from hypothermia or falling from a ditch.
Loved ones who later discover what happened may experience severe emotional distress, particularly if they believe such a tragedy could have been averted. Alarmingly, reports link significant elopement injuries to a lack of vigilance, training and risk assessment from assisted living facilities.
Duty to care for residents
Although it shouldn’t happen, elopement is a real problem. How the caregivers at your nursing home deal with the issue can drastically affect what happens to the wandering resident. Staff who ignore alerts and the lack of safety protocols could leave residents unattended for long periods.
If this happens, family members of victims may sue your facility liable for negligence, potentially damaging its reputation. This emphasizes the need to implement effective measures, such as monitoring systems, staff training and good communication.
Managing the risks of nursing home elopement is integral to your duty of care. This entails maintaining patient safety and high-quality treatment as top priorities. By doing so, you may better protect your residents and your facility from legal action.