When an older adult moves into a nursing home, it is often a decision made out of necessity. Someone can no longer manage their own affairs or get around their home safely. They may have begun experiencing cognitive decline and can no longer live by themselves. When someone moves into a nursing home, is typical for their loved ones to assume that they will receive support 24 hours a day as needed and that they will be safe in that nursing home facility.
Unfortunately, neglect in nursing homes is a constant, ongoing safety concern. One of the more concerning manifestations of nursing home neglect is the possibility of elopement. Older adults who have issues with dementia or who resent the decision to move them into a nursing home might try to leave the facility without notifying staff.
An elopement might lead to someone missing doses of a medication crucial to their health or getting hurt due to exposure to the elements or even a traffic crash if they wander into a street. Since elopement is largely preventable, it is often a sign of nursing home neglect.
How can nursing homes prevent elopement?
There are many ways for nursing home facilities and the professionals working at those facilities to prevent an elopement incident. Assessing residents both during their initial intake and routinely during their stay for cognitive impairment and the likelihood of an elopement incident is important. Staff members cannot provide appropriate oversight and support without first identifying someone’s care needs.
Having a secure facility for those with dementia and memory issues can also be a very important consideration. Locked wards that people cannot leave at will may prevent them from exiting the facility in the middle of the night without anyone knowing. Finally, adequate security and staffing throughout the facility would often mean that someone would spot an older adult trying to leave.
When a failure to evaluate residents, properly staff a facility or secure those who are at elevated risk of elopement leads to an older adult getting hurt, it may be possible to pursue a claim against the facility because of the negligent standard of care that endangered one of the residents. Taking action after an elopement incident can compensate the people affected and help to prevent an incident like that from harming other residents in the future.