When you first heard the term “elopement” regarding nursing homes and other elder care facilities, you might have thought it referred to two residents finding love and running off to get married. In reality, it’s something much less joyful – and potentially very dangerous.
Elopement is perhaps the most dangerous form of wandering. Unsupervised people may simply wander outside and perhaps off the premises without realizing what they’re doing. Elopement is considered more purposeful. People who want to leave the facility often do this. They may make multiple attempts before they finally succeed.
Who is most at risk?
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia or even those whose medication leaves them confused and disoriented are typically at the greatest risk of wandering or eloping. They could wander out onto a busy road and have a vehicle strike them. They could become the victim of a crime or get lost in the woods. It may be too late to save them by the time someone finds them.
Even if your loved one hasn’t shown signs of significant cognitive decline when they move into a residential facility, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Sometimes just the anxiety of a change in their living situation can cause someone to wander or elope.
What protocols should facilities have in place?
It’s essential to ask facilities you’re considering for your loved one about all of their protocols to avoid wandering and what steps they take when someone disappears. Also, ask whether they do a risk assessment for wandering when a resident first arrives.
You may be able to hold a nursing home or other residential care facility or even a day care center liable if your loved one was able to wander or elope from their premises. If you haven’t yet signed a contract to move your loved one into a facility, then it’s wise to have an experienced attorney review it to ensure you aren’t signing away the right to hold them responsible. If your loved one has already suffered harm, talk with an attorney to determine what your rights are for seeking justice and compensation.