The Dangers of Senior Elopement
Senior “elopement” occurs when the elderly wander away from their living space unattended, and it’s a relatively common phenomenon in long-term care and assisted living facilities. It can also be incredibly dangerous for vulnerable seniors with dementia, as they may no longer be able to successfully navigate around busy streets or city sidewalks without supervision.
Although the primary cause of elopement is dementia in residents, there are many ways that nursing home negligence can contribute to this devastating outcome. In this blog, our team at Brown & Barron, LLC will explore a few of the most common causes of elopement in seniors.
Defining the Causes of Senior Elopement
Dementia is a syndrome that affects memory, behavior, and the ability to perform “activities of daily living” or ADLs. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, at least 6 in 10 dementia patients will try to wander off at some point. When some seniors start to develop dementia, their family members may choose to have them admitted to a nursing home where they will be monitored for 24 hours a day by skilled nursing professionals.
Unfortunately, nursing homes are not always as vigilant against elopement as you might expect them to be, given their obligation to watch and assist nursing home residents. In 2004, one group of researchers found that there are three main reasons for elopement at nursing homes: A lack of effective precautions, failure to supervise residents, and poor or incomplete use of alarm devices.
Here are some of the other ways that nursing homes might fail to protect residents from elopement:
- Lack of attention to those who have dementia or a high wandering risk
- Failure to keep staff updated about frequent wanderers
- Staffing levels that fall below federal and state requirements
- Malfunctioning or inadequate security and alarm systems
What Can I Do When My Loved One Becomes Injured?
During an elopement, seniors with dementia may become involved in horrible car accidents or trip and fall on the pavement. With so little situational awareness, it’s easy for these vulnerable seniors to become severely injured while they are wandering out in the world. If your loved one has sustained injuries after wandering off the premises of their nursing home or assisted living facility, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the facility on their behalf.
In order to have a valid lawsuit, you would need to show that:
- The facility had a “duty of care” towards your loved one as the resident and should have known that they were a wandering risk;
- The facility violated that duty of care by failing to monitor and supervise them properly;
- As a result of this violation, your loved one left the premises and became seriously injured; and
- You and your family suffered substantial financial and psychological losses because of your loved one’s injuries.
When you work with Brown & Barron, LLC, our elopement attorneys can help you figure out the right course of action for your family and determine if you have a case. We have over 75 years of combined experience – and we’re committed to fighting for justice on behalf of injured nursing home residents in Baltimore and beyond.
Give us a call at (410) 698-1717 today to discuss your concerns about nursing home negligence and abuse.