Wandering Off & Elopement
One of the saddest things that can happen to a person as he or she ages is the loss of cognitive abilities. Whether from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or some other condition, it’s an unfortunate reality that some seniors experience a decline in memory, reasoning, and other thought processes as they age. Seniors who are experiencing this kind of impairment can easily become confused, forget names and faces, and become unsure where they are. They might think they’re talking to a person from the past, or that they’re somewhere other than a nursing home. They may not recognize markers in their environment that help them orient themselves — or recognize potential dangers in their confusion.
When seniors become confused, they sometimes can engage in the potentially dangerous behavior of wandering or elopement. Wandering involves moving around inside the facility without supervision or care. Elopement is leaving the facility altogether without authorization or supervision. When either of these things happens, a senior may encounter life-threatening danger.
Preventing Wandering or Elopement
It’s the nursing home’s responsibility to ensure that residents are safe, and free from neglect. When a nursing home has inadequate staff, or staff fail to adequately monitor residents, then wandering or elopement may be the result, and the nursing home owner or licensee may be liable for any harm the resident suffers.
There are actions that a nursing can take to prevent wandering and elopement, and failure to do so also may mean the nursing home is liable for damages when a resident with Alzheimer’s or dementia wanders inside the facility or is able to leave without supervision. Preventive measures include:
- Making sure staff is properly trained to supervise residents and identify residents who have a tendency to wander
- Have policies and procedures in place to supervise those residents who are at risk for wandering or elopement
- Have adequate security in place for at-risk residents so they can’t exit authorized areas or the facility
- Making sure that visitors are aware of the risk that residents might wander, and follow safety and security protocols
Possible Consequences of Wandering or Elopement
When a senior wanders inside a nursing home facility or is able to leave the facility without supervision, the resident may face any number of dangers. Inside the building, just to name a few examples the resident could:
- Fall down stairs
- Slip on a wet floor
- Come into contact with hazardous chemicals
- Enter a dangerous area such as a basement or electrical room
Outside of a facility, some common dangers a senior with dementia might face include:
- Stumbling into traffic and get hit by a car
- Suffering from heat exhaustion or hypothermia in extreme weather conditions
- Getting lost and being unable to find his or her way back to the nursing home
- Being unable to identify himself or herself or say where he or she lives
There are any number of scenarios that could mean a wandering senior encounters harm, thus it’s vitally important that nursing homes provide adequate care and security for residents who suffer from cognitive impairment.
How a Lawyer Can Help
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act says that nursing home residents have the right to be free from neglect. When a senior is allowed to wander inside a nursing home, or to leave the facility without knowledge or supervision, that’s a form of neglect. If the senior then suffers harm because of the neglect that allowed him or her to wander or elope from the facility, then in Illinois an authorized representative has the ability to sue the nursing home’s owner or licensee for compensation of damages. Compensation could include payment for:
- Medical costs if the senior gets into an accident or suffers weather-related medical complications
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Disability and disfigurement
- Loss of normal life
- Attorney fees
In addition, you can make a complaint to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the agency will investigate the complaint and may take action against the facility’s license.
If a nursing home allowed your loved one to wander or leave the facility, an experienced Chicago elder care lawyer can help you determine the best course of action. If you decide to pursue a claim for compensation, your lawyer can help you gather the evidence and testimony you need to support your claim, negotiate a settlement, or take the case to court and present an argument designed to get you the best possible outcome from a judge or jury.
Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today to speak with a Chicago elder care lawyer about your loved one’s situation at (312) 236-2900.