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Can Nursing Homes Prevent Residents From Escaping?

Most nursing homes have residents who regularly try to escape from the facility, particularly if the facility has residents with dementia or Alzheimer's.  When residents are successful in escaping from the facility they place themselves at significant risk of injury or death, so it is important that nursing homes take every precaution to keep residents safe and contained.

What Do Nursing Homes Call It When A Resident Escape

Nursing homes generally don't use the word "escape".  They use the word "elopement" I guess because it sounds more academic and less dangerous.  Basically, elopement means an unauthorized and unsupervised departure from a nursing home by a nursing home resident.  So, if a resident is able to get out of the nursing home facility when he shouldn’t, (i.e. escape) that resident is described as having eloped, or wandered, from the facility.  


Why Do Residents Elope From A Nursing Home?

Most residents who wander away from a nursing home facility have some form of dementia.  People who suffer from dementia are often prone to pacing or wandering and want to keep moving.  If a resident is physically able to move about with little to no assistance by the nursing home staff, he should be considered a high risk for elopement.  Because many of those who engage in elopement suffer from dementia it is hard to truly pinpoint an exact “why” they try to escape because they themselves are generally unable to explain their actions.  I've read in some records or even heard myself some of the reasons residents give for trying to elope.  Some believe they are late for work or need to meet a friend for lunch.   Some are just trying to go home.  Others may be doing the only thing they can do to escape poor care they are receiving at the nursing home facility.  While no one can definitively answer the “why”, nursing homes know exactly how to prevent elopement from happening.  Unfortunately, far too many nursing homes don’t take all the steps necessary to stop elopement.


How Can A Nursing Home Prevent Elopement?

Some nursing homes have invested in technology to help prevent elopement and, honestly, that is a good start.  Technology such as door alarms, door codes and wander alarm bracelets that notify employees when a resident gets outside of a specialized unit is good.  While technology is good it is not, in and of itself, sufficient to prevent elopement.  The best factor in preventing elopement is human interaction.  Staff members must be present and properly trained to understand those with dementia and the methods by which they may attempt to elope.  And unfortunately, this is where many nursing home companies draw the line.  Far too many nursing home companies refuse to have sufficient staff on duty to make elopement virtually impossible.  Why?  Because adding staff members creates more expense and less profit.  And, too often, those staff members that are present, are so overworked with other tasks that they cannot provide the supervision necessary to ensure residents are not successful in escaping from the facility.


Can a Resident Be Injured When Wandering From A Nursing Home?

The risks of injury and death are very real when a resident elopes from a nursing home.  If it is cold outside a resident can suffer frostbite or even freeze to death.  If it is hot outside, a resident could suffer from dehydration or heat stroke.  Residents have been known to be hit by cars and other vehicles.  Residents can fall and suffer head injuries, broken bones or other injuries.  The risk to the health of a resident is very real if they are permitted to successfully elope from the facility.  As a result, preventing elopement should be a top priority for nursing home companies.  Unfortunately, it’s not.


The Terry Law Firm has handled cases against Missouri nursing homes where a resident was seriously injured or died as a result of eloping from the facility.  If you have a family member who has been injured after eloping from a Missouri nursing home, call our office at 314-878-9797 for a free consultation about your options.  You can also get a FREE copy of David Terry's book 5 Things You Must Know About Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect In Missouri, simply by visiting www.MissouriNursingHomeAbuseBook.com.




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