Wandering and Elopement Due to St. Louis Nursing Home Neglect - Terry Law Firm

Wandering and Elopement Due to St. Louis Nursing Home Neglect

Understanding Why Wandering and Elopement Happen, and Why it Could be St. Louis Nursing Home Neglect and Negligence

Wandering and elopement of a resident in a nursing home is a serious problem.  Residents can be involved in dangerous and even deadly accidents when they wander outside or even inside a facility.  Just recently a resident of a Pennsylvania nursing home was wandering and fell to her death out of a nursing home window.  But eloping from the facility is also dangerous or deadly.  In another case from Ohio, a nursing home resident was killed after she wandered away from the facility when the temperatures were around zero and she was found 8 hours later.  Our office has been involved in several cases where residents were not adequately supervised and wandered away from the facility. In most of those cases the injuries sustained by residents were not life-threatening, but unfortunately in other cases the residents died.

When wandering and elopement like this occurs in a nursing home, the nursing home owners, nursing home facility and even staff members may be liable for personal injuries or the wrongful death of a resident who was injured or killed.  This is because nursing homes, long term care facilities, and rehabilitation centers are responsible for the residents and patients entrusted to them.  Missouri law holds these facilities accountable for failing to keep these vulnerable individuals safe, even if that means safe from themselves.

You may wonder why a resident wandering or eloping would result in liability for the nursing home, owners but the answer is simple. One of the key reasons why residents are successful at wandering away from a nursing home facility is because they are not properly supervised.  Why are they not properly supervised?  Because the facility doesn’t have enough staff members to provide even adequate supervision. Why doesn’t the facility have enough staff members? Because nursing home owners will often cut the staffing levels to a bare minimum so they can increase their own personal profit. When ownership cuts staffing to levels where they can barely meet the needs of the residents (and often don’t meet the needs of residents) there simply aren’t enough staff members to ensure that residents who are prone to wandering are properly supervised. Owners can be held liable because the subsequent injuries and wrongful death are a foreseeable result of their decisions. 

Nursing home facilities can also be held responsible for injuries that happen when residents successfully elope from facilities. We trust Missouri nursing homes and long term care facilities with the care and treatment of our loved ones.  Families put their loves ones in these facilities because they are no longer able to  provide the level of care and supervision necessary to help keep them healthy and safe.  This includes more than just administering medication, helping rehab, or performing other physical therapy.  The ability to keep watch of a resident is crucial and a large function of all healthcare facilities, especially a nursing home.  When they fail to do that, they have breached their promise to us and under the law. Insufficient staffing is not always at the heart of a resident’s elopement. There are times when the facility has enough staff members on hand to provide the proper level of supervision but they choose not to or they are negligent in how their supervision. In this circumstances, the nursing home facility can be held responsible as well.

What is Wandering and Elopement?

Wandering and elopement refers to a resident who has some type of cognitive impairment who cannot appreciate what he or she is doing as he or she navigates through a facility—or sometimes out of it.  Wandering and elopement can mean just aimless walking through halls, into other resident rooms, in staff areas, and up and down stairs with no objective.  Sometimes,  a resident may be able to navigate out of a facility into busy streets, construction zones or elsewhere into the community.

Wandering and elopement is dangerous because it creates an unnecessary risk for a resident to become injured in a trip and fall, fall down stairs, or.  When a resident wanders within a facility without the proper supervision, it can also provoke confrontations with other residents if a resident is wandering into other resident’s rooms and will not leave, which can even lead to fights.  When a resident is successful in wandering from a nursing home they can suffer horrific injuries, such as being hit by a car or falling victim to extremely cold temperatures which can result in death. Wandering residents can also become victims of crime by a criminal taking advantage of the resident.  

Why does Wandering and Elopement Occur and Why is it Possibly St. Louis Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing homes cannot limit all wandering otherwise it would be almost detaining a resident.  But nursing homes must also ensure that residents are not engaging in activities which put themselves and others at risk of personal injury.  This can include wandering and elopement in certain instances.  Thus, nursing homes and other facilities must guard against this by formulating a care plan for the resident.  This care plan is developed after consulting with referring physicians, the resident, the resident’s loved ones, and other specialists that work both in and outside of the nursing home.  While some nursing homes do a thorough job with this practice of setting and implementing a plan of care specific to the needs of each resident, many providers fail to plan at all, and others may have a good plan but simply fail to implement what a resident needs to prevent wandering and elopement from occurring.

There are many reasons why wandering and elopement occur, these reasons include the following:

  • Understaffing at a facility, particularly weekends;
  • Untrained staff to know how to recognize, handle, and prevent wandering;
  • Failing to identify a wandering resident as a risk and addressing it in an initial care plan;
  • Failing to have proper monitoring of residents, particularly at risk residents;
  • Neglecting residents by failing to check on them often enough;
  • Not using sensors or alarms on residents, like bed, wheelchair, door, and window alarms; and
  • Many other reasons.

Was a Loved One Injured Wandering in a Missouri Nursing Home?  You’re Not Alone and We Can Help

Wandering and elopement in a Missouri nursing home is a problem which results in serious personal injuries or even the wrongful death of a patient.  If a loved one has been seriously injured because a nursing home has failed to properly monitor, guard, and protect your loved one, call the Terry Law Firm at (314) 334-1441 to learn how we can help you today.  We have 18 years of experience representing victims of nursing home abuse and neglect all over the State of Missouri and we would be happy to help you.

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