The Dangers Of Wandering And Elopement

A friendly caregiver walking with a senior woman in a park

Millions of Americans trust nursing home facilities to care for their loved ones and keep them safe. Many nursing home residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which means they are at a higher risk of elopement or wandering away from safe areas. A nursing home’s failure to keep track of these residents can be considered negligence.

The team at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad has helped hundreds of families whose loved ones were injured or died due to nursing home neglect. Understanding the dangers of elopement and wandering can help you stay vigilant and identify signs that your loved one may be at risk.

The Hazards Of Wandering

Although many nursing homes have locked memory care areas specifically designed for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive disorders, elopement happens. People with these types of conditions often become confused and disoriented, which can lead them to try and walk away from safe areas. They may believe that they need to get home to take care of their children, feed a pet, or go to work. If they make it outside, they can become lost, injured, or even killed. Some of the risks of elopement include:

  • Tripping, slipping, or falling
  • Walking into traffic or a body of water
  • Dehydration from being lost for long periods of time
  • Hypothermia from wandering in cold temperatures
  • Death

Accidents that happen during elopement or wandering can result in broken bones, lacerations, head, neck, and spinal injury, loss of vision or hearing, and other catastrophic injuries.

Prevent Wandering And Elopement

People with cognitive or psychological disorders should be closely monitored by nursing home staff. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty of care to keep their residents and patients safe. There are several ways in which nursing homes can prevent wandering and elopement, including:

  • Doors and windows are locked at all times
  • Alarms on beds and chairs
  • Close supervision during the time spent outdoors
  • GPS tracking devices
  • Fully staffed units with properly trained caregivers

Nursing Home Negligence

All nursing home residents should be properly cared for and safely guided through their everyday activities. Elopement often happens due to negligence on the part of nursing home staff or malfunctioning safety systems. This may include failure to respond to door and window alarms quickly, inadequate training, and understaffing.

Inadequate supervision is neglect. If your loved one wandered away or was injured inside a nursing home due to poor supervision or safety system failure, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim on their behalf. If elopement led to your loved one’s death, a wrongful death claim might be appropriate.

How An Attorney Can Help

Regardless of how a nursing home injury happened, it’s always a good idea to contact an attorney to learn more about your loved one’s rights and options for recovering compensation. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation and work on a contingency basis, which means you won’t incur any up-front costs or pay attorney fees unless they recover compensation for you or your loved one. A nursing home abuse lawyer can evaluate your case, determine whether you have a viable claim, and advise you on the most effective course of action.

Going up against these facilities and their insurance companies can be challenging. Having an experienced attorney represent your loved one’s interests can ensure the nursing home facility is held accountable for negligence. These cases often lead to nursing homes making changes to their safety policies and procedures, keeping residents safer and saving lives.  

Contact A Nursing Home Neglect And Abuse Attorney In Pennsylvania

At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad, we believe that our elderly friends, neighbors, and family should be treated with the care and respect they deserve. If your loved one was injured or killed due to wandering or elopement, our attorneys can assess your case and give you the solid legal advice you can trust. To schedule a free consultation, call our Bethlehem office at 610-867-2900 or contact us online. We serve clients throughout the Lehigh Valley and the Pocono Mountains region and have additional locations in Stroudsburg, Topton, and Allentown, PA.  

Call the Pennsylvania Department of Aging Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 if you suspect senior abuse or neglect.


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