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Elopement is a potential risk for residents of nursing homes. In this article, we’ll define the term “elopement” and explain how it relates to nursing home abuse.

Key Takeaways

  • Elopement is when a patient leaves a nursing home without notice
  • Patients with mentally debilitating illnesses like Alzheimer’s are especially susceptible to elopement 
  • Elopement can lead to serious consequences such as injury and even death
  • It is a nursing home’s duty to take the necessary measures to reduce the risk of elopement
  • If a nursing home fails to meet its duty to enforce security measures and respond promptly to elopement, it is considered negligence

What Is Elopement?

In the context of nursing homes, elopement (also called wandering) refers to a patient leaving a facility without notice. This is not uncommon with patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of cognitive impairment. Any memory from the past may trigger the desire to leave the facility. Patients may believe that they have to do something important or that they live elsewhere. Any change in medication or other sudden changes to routine can trigger elopement, as well. 

Residents without dementia-related issues may also elope, especially if they have sleep disorders, high levels of stress, or aggressive tendencies. The Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) is a tool that nursing home staff can use to determine a patient’s tendency to elope. The CMAI uses a rating scale based on 29 behaviors to assess for agitation, a potential precursor to elopement.

Most of the time, eloped patients are found close to the nursing home and quickly escorted back by a staff member. Yet sometimes, elopement can lead to more serious consequences such as injury and even death. 

Thankfully, with the proper safety measures, most cases of elopement can be prevented. Indeed, it is a nursing home’s duty to be aware of the risk of elopement and take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of its patients. This includes proper staffing and security to prevent residents from easily leaving the facility without supervision. 

If a patient has a history of elopement, it is important that it is noted in their records. Family members should report this history to the nursing home. Nursing home staff must take note of it in order to be vigilant and prevent further incidents from happening in the future.

Elopement and Nursing Home Abuse

If a nursing home and/or its staff fail to take the proper measures to prevent and respond to elopement, it is considered negligence. This includes enforcing necessary security measures as well as acting promptly if a patient does elope. If a patient elopes and is injured as a result, it might qualify as nursing home abuse. 

If you have a loved one who eloped as a result of a nursing home’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation for the pain and suffering that resulted. It is recommended that you speak to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. They will be able to review your case and consult with you about further steps.

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