Patient Wandering Off or Lost Resident |
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Patient Wandering Off or Lost Resident

What is Patient Wandering or Elopment? According to the Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging, a medical journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), close to 31% of nursing home residents with dementia…

What is Patient Wandering or Elopment?

According to the Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging, a medical journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), close to 31% of nursing home residents with dementia have wandered or eloped. Elopement, sometimes referred to as patient wandering, is defined in nursing home or assisted living terms as a cognitive-challenged resident leaving the facility and exposing themselves to potential dangers. This may include walking into a dangerous street, falling down outside while unsupervised, or being hurt or killed in any number of ways while outside of the facility. Nursing home staff members are responsible for the care of these residents, yet unfortunately, incidents of wandering off continue to be a problem in nursing homes.

Helping Residents who Elope, Get Lost, or Wander Off

It is the responsibility of nursing home staff members to ensure that residents remain safe. Strict precautions should be taken at all times, especially for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and any history of elopement. Nursing homes should always:

  • Screen each and every resident upon admission to ensure that the facility will be able to successfully care for the patient
  • Have fully-trained staff who understand the risk factors of elopement and how to prevent it from happening
  • If elopement has happened, staff should be trained on how to safely get the resident back into the facility. A contingency plan should also be set in place

Once a resident elopes or wanders off, it is imperative for staff members and caregivers to get them to safety as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen in time, resulting in injuries and even death that could have been prevented if the proper precautions were taken.

Nursing Home Rules and Laws About Patient Wandering

Since the potential risks of elopement are so severe, there are strict state and federal rules that apply to all nursing homes. If facilities are determined to have violated these rules, the victim’s loved ones may have legal recourse.

If a nursing home fails to abide by the following rules, it could result in liability:

  • Properly train employees on how to handle wandering and elopement
  • Hire qualified staff members that can can handle wandering and elopement situations
  • Install security devices such as alarm systems in the the facilities

Other Factors Involving Nursing Home Patient Wandering Off or Elopement

It is important to understand that while residents with cognitive disabilities tend to wander off more frequently when compared to others, there is no set profile for residents who are at risk. According to Bruce Harwood, Former CEO and president of the American Healthcare Association in Washington, D.C.,  there are several factors that play into the risk for elopement including age, mobility, and physical health.

For example, a patient with dementia who just had surgery is less likely to elope than a patient with normal cognitive reasoning skills who has emotional issues.  As a result, even though those with cognitive disorders should be watched closely, this doesn’t mean that other residents should be considered safe from wandering off.

Hiring a Nursing Home Elopement Lawyer

If a loved one or family member has been injured or killed as a result of hospital or nursing home elopement or patient wandering, or you suspect that this may have happened and the nursing home is covering it up, an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to assist you by investigating and suing the nursing home and its employees. At, our nursing home abuse attorneys handle elopement cases and have helped numerous victims seek justice in their cases. Give us a call today at 877-887-4850 for a free consultation with one of our dedicated staff.


Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She works alongside the team at to provide readers with up-to-date information relevant to the healthcare and legal industries.

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