Wandering and Elopement

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South Carolina Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers Protecting Families

Experienced counsel for patients prone to wandering and elopement

In any nursing home, a certain percentage of the residents are inclined to wander away from their room, and sometimes the facility itself. It is necessary for a nursing home to take appropriate measures to prevent the problem of wandering and elopement. A nursing home that fails to implement proactive processes to prevent residents from wandering or leaving the building itself places them at risk for serious injury or death. This can lead to legitimate claims of nursing home negligence and abuse leveled against the facility and its caretakers.

At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, we can effectively investigate any claim of negligence involving your loved one. A South Carolina nursing home wandering and elopement trial lawyer from our team can find the best path forward to help you obtain justice and the maximum compensation available under the law.

Failure of a nursing home to properly oversee residents

When a resident is admitted into a nursing home, he or she should be evaluated regarding their propensity to wander (move around the nursing home) or elope (leave the nursing home facility). Any resident who suffers from cognitive impairment issues, dementia, or Alzheimer’s requires a higher level of oversight when they are inclined to roam around the facility or outside its confines. These residents can suffer serious injuries and even death due to wandering or elopement if they lack attentive staff to prevent this from occurring.

As a result of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, a nursing home can be held responsible for negligence when it fails to adequately supervise residents and prevent them from wandering from their rooms or leaving the building. A failure to hire adequate staff or properly train employees can both lead to a legitimate claim of nursing home negligence. As well, failing to have proper safety devices and alarms in place that prevent wandering can leave a nursing home open to a claim of negligence if serious injury or death occurred as a result.

Nursing homes have a responsibility to account for the location of its residents 24/7. They are also required to document where residents are and what they are doing on a regular basis. It is possible, in some cases, for nursing homes to falsify or alter these records when an elopement has occurred. If your loved one has suffered an injury due to elopement, it’s important to have a strong South Carolina nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer investigate the situation thoroughly.

What causes residents to wander?

Some residents who are prone to wander tend to be those who previously had an active and social lifestyle prior to suffering mental decline. The use of certain sedating medications can bring about a confused mental state and contribute to wandering. Antipsychotic medications can increase a resident’s desire to wander. Additional factors that can also contribute to wandering include:

  • Disorientation
  • Searching to meet a need, such as thirst, hunger, urination, constipation, or pain
  • Memory deficiencies
  • Boredom
  • Poor vision
  • Searching for a loved one
  • Searching for a secure environment
  • Language or communication issues

What is the nursing home’s responsibilities when residents wander?

South Carolina nursing homes must evaluate residents to assess their propensity to wander. If a resident wanders, or is deemed likely to wander, he or she should be provided additional supervision. Residents who are prone to wander don’t need to have their freedom completely removed, but they must be monitored carefully. The staff of the nursing home must find the right balance between freedom and safety for each resident. If wandering occurs, the nursing home should inform the loved ones and family members of the resident about the situation. In certain cases, a different facility may be better suited to provide the comfort and safety that a resident who is prone to wandering may need.

If a resident is injured as a result of a nursing home in South Carolina failing to meet the minimum expected standard of care, the facility may be subject to a claim of nursing home abuse or negligence. In order to fulfill the minimum expected standard of care, it is advised that nursing homes do the following:

  • Identify residents who are prone to wander
  • Develop a plan of care for residents prone to wandering or elopement
  • Decorate and furnish residents’ rooms with art and pictures that provide the residents of a sense of familiarity and comfort
  • Provide safe areas within the facility to wander
  • Provide areas for residents to rest and stop while in the process of wandering
  • Maintain enough staffing to ensure the safety of each resident
  • Camouflage building exits
  • Provide activities and sensory stimulation opportunities to meet the needs of residents
  • Maintain well-lit and uncluttered walking paths in the facility
  • Use bed alarms for residents who wander at night
  • Use safety locks on drawers and closets that may contain hazardous materials
  • Place residents who wander in rooms that are far away from building exits
  • Evaluate and provide for the basic needs of residents such as, food, fluids, toileting, and pain management
  • Place pictures and signs in locations outside of the resident’s room to help him or her find it
  • Install a taped grid pattern on floors in front of restricted areas or exits – this can produce a sense of instability and prevent the resident from using an exit and eloping

The activity of wandering may be beneficial to the resident if he or she fulfills a need for sensory stimulation, exercise, or behavior that is purposeful and reaches a goal. However, there is a negative side of wandering. It can potentially lead to elopement, excess fatigue, falls, altercations with other residents, anxiety, or exposure to hazardous substances. For these reasons it is a solemn responsibility of a nursing home to manage wandering behaviors effectively and protect its residents from injuries and other potential negative consequences.

Get help from an experienced South Carolina nursing home neglect attorney today

If your loved one has suffered an injury through nursing home abuse or neglect, whether the harm occurred due to wandering or elopement from the facility, it’s important to understand your loved one’s rights. Every nursing home resident in South Carolina has a right to receive a proper standard of care and supervision. At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, we can provide you with the strong advocacy you need for your loved one who has suffered injustice. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer like Johnny Felder, call us today at 888.302.7546 or complete our contact form. We serve clients from our offices in Anderson, Columbia, Georgetown, Rock Hill, Charleston, and Sumter.

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