One of the biggest potential risks for those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities isn’t inside the facility. It’s what could happen to them if they leave on their own. This is known as “elopement.”
Elopement is defined as when a person who is “cognitively, physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or chemically impaired…escapes, or otherwise leaves a caregiving facility or environment unsupervised, unnoticed, and/or prior to their scheduled discharge.”
People with dementia are most likely to elope. However, anyone who has just recently entered a facility can become disoriented – especially at night – or simply decide they want to go home. A change in medication or dosage can cause confusion as well.
Wandering vs. elopement
Sometimes, a person who elopes (or tries to) does it without warning. Other times they may start with “wandering,” which is where a person stays within the grounds of a facility but can’t be located.
Elopement can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences. Patients can walk out into traffic, drown in bodies of water (even relatively shallow ones), become the victims of crime or succumb to the elements. Even wandering can have fatal results. Patients can eat or drink something toxic, burn themselves, fall or be assaulted.
Find out how your loved one’s facility prevents elopement
Every nursing home should have safeguards in place to prevent patients from getting out unsupervised such as door alarms and cameras. They should also have protocols to follow if a patient can’t be located.
It’s crucial to ask about these things even if your loved one isn’t currently suffering from cognitive issues. Also, find out how long a patient could potentially be missing before anyone would notice.
If you have a loved one who has already been injured or worse because they were able to leave their care facility without anyone noticing, you owe it to them and to others who could be in danger of the same fate to determine what your legal options are for seeking compensation and justice.