One of the most basic obligations of a nursing home is to provide adequate supervision to prevent residents from placing themselves in harm’s way. Research suggests that anywhere from a fifth to a third of all nursing home residents wander at least once, with many elderly individuals experiencing multiple episodes.

It goes without saying that wandering and elopement put elderly individuals at significant risk for a variety of injuries and dangerous conditions. Nursing home residents who wander and elope frequently suffer from dementia and other cognitive impairments. These impairments not only lead them to wander, but make it difficult or impossible for them to take care of themselves and find their way back home as well. This is why it is so critical for nursing homes to protect their residents who may be at risk for wandering or elopement.

We are Passionate about Helping Victims of Nursing Home Negligence

At Bottaro Law Firm, we are passionate about helping nursing home residents and family members who have experienced losses due to wandering and elopement from nursing homes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These are what the medical community calls, “never events.” Like bedsores and other nursing home injuries, with proper care and supervision, wandering and elopement simply should never occur.

We believe strongly that no one should have to suffer due to a “never event” caused by someone else’s negligence. If you have experienced a “never event” in a nursing home, we want to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Understanding Wandering and Elopement from Nursing Homes

While wandering and elopement are often discussed together, they are two distinct issues that can arise from inadequate nursing home care.

“Wandering” is the term used to describe the situation where a resident walks aimlessly around a nursing home, without regard for their own safety or personal needs.

Wandering nursing home residents are at risk for falls and other injuries resulting from inadequate supervision, dangerous conditions on the premises, access to stairwells, access to medications, and other major safety concerns. While certain conditions may be reasonably safe for the average person, they can present significant health and safety risks for elderly individuals who may be frail or have cognitive impairments.

“Elopement” refers to the situation where an elderly resident purposefully leaves their nursing home. Eloping without supervision and without the resident’s medications can lead to dire, and in some cases life-endangering circumstances. One study has shown that 10 percent of all lawsuits against nursing homes involve claims arising out of an elopement, with 70 percent of all elopement lawsuits involving a fatal incident.

Risk Factors for Wandering and Elopement

Cognitive impairments are the leading cause of wandering and elopement among elderly nursing home residents. Residents who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may be particularly prone to wandering and eloping from their facilities.

Along with the resident’s own risk factors, factors relating to the quality of their nursing home care can increase the risk of wandering and elopement as well. The following forms of improper care can all lead a nursing home resident to wander or elope:

  • Abandonment
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Injuries
  • Malnutrition, dehydration, and other failures to meet their basic needs
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

These can all lead to the most common reasons that nursing home residents wander and elope:

  • Anxiety or fear – Elderly individuals with dementia and other mental illnesses may react to stressful situations by seeking to leave.
  • Boredom – Nursing home residents who feel isolated may wander or get lost while simply looking for something to do.
  • Following past routines – Dementia and other cognitive impairments may lead elderly patients to attempt to follow past routines, such as going to the store.
  • Seeking to fulfill basic needs – Nursing home residents who have been abused, abandoned, or ignored may wander or elope in an effort to provide for their own basic needs.

What to Do After an Incident of Wandering or Elopement

Finding out that your loved one has been harmed while wandering or eloping can be a heartbreaking experience. At Bottaro Law Firm, we are sensitive to the emotional nature of these situations, and we provide compassionate, full-service representation to individuals and families in need. If you are seeking help after an incident of wandering or elopement, we are here for you and your loved ones.

Contact Bottaro Law Firm Today

Bottaro Law Firm’s attorneys handle cases involving nursing homes located throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts. To get help with your situation, please contact us today.