In nursing homes and assisted living facilities, residents normally wander or roam about as they wish. However, wandering becomes unsafe when it is unsupervised and exposes the resident (or other residents) to injury. The most unsafe form of wandering is elopement, which is when the resident leaves the nursing home premises without the staff knowing.
Care facilities are responsible for preventing unsafe wandering and elopement among its residents. Unfortunately, there are numerous instances of wandering and elopement that end with the resident getting seriously or fatally injured. Many of these cases could have been prevented if the facility hadn’t been negligent in looking out for its residents.
If your loved one was hurt after wandering in or out of their nursing home, you may be able to hold the facility accountable and claim compensation for your loved one’s injury. In Southern California, consult Barrios & Machado. We are a trusted law firm that advocates for nursing home residents and their families. Contact us at (714) 515-9696.
Dangers of Unsafe Wandering or Elopement
When a patient veers outside staff supervision, their risk for injury or death significantly increases. Nursing home residents who wander unsafely can be hurt in the following ways:
- Tripping or slipping, leading to fractures and brain injuries
- Falling from a height
- Getting exposed to the cold, leading to hypothermia
- Getting exposed to elements that trigger their health conditions
- Wandering into traffic
- And more.
In particular, patients who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or diminished faculties require robust protection against unsafe wandering.
Responsibility of Nursing Homes to Prevent Wandering and Elopement
Preventing unsafe wandering takes more than just gates and locks. Under federal law, specifically the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, nursing facilities must assess the wandering risk of each resident in their first 14 days at the home. The facility must then develop an individualized care plan that specifies interventions to minimize the resident’s risk of wandering.
A care plan for a resident with wandering tendencies might include:
- Identification of high-risk areas such as dining halls, and posting additional staff there
- Recommendations for activities to keep the resident from getting bored
- Prescribing “wander management bracelets” as needed.
Everyone in the staff must learn each resident’s care plan and follow the protocols in it. In addition, the administration must regularly update care plans, especially when a resident has had a wandering incident at the facility.
Besides care planning, a nursing home is also responsible for:
- Hiring an adequate number of staff for supervision of residents
- Training all staff to identify and address wandering risks
- Ensuring that care plans are communicated clearly during the staff’s shift change
- Installing and maintaining a security system, door lock system, and alarms
- Developing a protocol for elopement response, in case a resident elopes
- Responding to elopement in a timely manner
- Promptly notifying law enforcement when necessary.
When is a Nursing Home Liable for Wandering or Elopement?
When a nursing home resident wanders without supervision and suffers an injury because of it, the facility may be held liable. The following are some common scenarios where nursing home negligence leads to wandering or elopement injuries:
- Failing to recognize the resident’s wandering risk
- Failing to include risk-reducing interventions in resident’s care plan
- Lack of supervision due to inadequate staff
- Untrained or unqualified employees
- Lack of security personnel to respond to alarms
- Staff not following the resident’s care plan
- Staff not communicating the care plan during shift change
- Failing to respond quickly to wandering or elopement incidents.
If you suspect that the nursing home was negligent in looking out for your loved one, and that this led to your loved one’s injury, consult a lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Barrios & Machado are experienced in determining elements of negligence and asserting the culpability of nursing homes and healthcare facilities.
Contact a Trusted Nursing Home Wandering/Elopement Lawyer in Orange County
Even if you aren’t thinking about filing a lawsuit at this point, it’s valuable to consult an attorney about your loved one’s rights and yours.
Families in Orange County trust the attorneys at Barrios & Machado for nursing home cases. Our attorneys have obtained favorable settlements for our clients through experienced and fearless legal representation, even against well-resourced healthcare companies and their insurers.
Talk to us in a free and confidential consultation. Call Barrios & Machado at (714) 515-9696 today.