Elopement is a growing problem in nursing homes, and can occur unexpectedly at any time. It occurs when a resident leaves the facility without permission, either through an open door or window, or with assistance from another person. The individual’s whereabouts and conditions can be unknown, making elopement a serious concern for nursing homes. Its magnitude is increased when the resident has cognitive difficulties that impair their judgment and awareness of their surroundings.
Effective ways to manage elopement include monitoring exits at all times and providing safety devices such as special locks on doors that alert staff when they are opened. Nursing home staff should also stay vigilant by preventively watching over residents who may be prone to leaving unexpectedly. Fortunately, the implementation of such strategies can reduce the frequency of elopement in nursing homes and ensure higher levels of safety for all residents.
WHAT IS ELOPEMENT IN A NURSING HOME?
Elopement in a nursing home is the term used when a person, usually an elderly patient living in a long-term care facility, decides to leave without notifying staff. It may be intentional or unintentional, but unfortunately elopement presents risks for both the resident and for those working in the home. Patient elopement is usually associated with cases of dementia, delirium, or even mental illness, as such individuals are often unable to recognize danger signs and may make poor decisions.
These patients may wander outdoors and experience disorientation, leading to an increased risk of getting lost or injured. Nursing homes must have adequate security measures in place to protect vulnerable residents from leaving their rooms or units unattended.
CAUSES OF ELOPEMENT IN NURSING HOMES
This risk to the safety of elderly residents should not be taken lightly, and it is important to understand what is causing these incidents. There are a variety of underlying issues that can lead to elopement, such as inadequate staffing levels or outdated security systems. Inadequate staff ratios mean fewer people may be available to monitor and intervene when this might occur, while poor lighting and weak infrastructure can create opportunities for residents to leave unnoticed.
Another factor may be that the staff are not trained correctly on the safety requirements needed in these environments, with names of floors and room numbers less visible than necessary. However, the most prevalent cause of elopement is disorientation due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease which causes a confusion in direction, leaving sufferers feeling as if they need to go somewhere else even when they are in a comfortable environment like their own home. With this in mind it is critical that effective strategies are put in place to reduce the number of these occurrences.
HOW DOES ELOPEMENT IMPACT AN ELDERLY NURSING HOME RESIDENT AND THEIR FAMILY?
Elopement, or the unauthorized leaving of a nursing home by an elder resident, can be a traumatic event for both the resident and their family. It can create feelings of fear and regret, as the elderly resident could potentially be in danger if they wander off alone, while their loved ones may feel guilt or sadness over not being able to keep them safe. Families can also find themselves dealing with an emotional strain from worrying about their elder in addition to having difficulty getting access to any necessary medical care.
While there are measures nursing homes take to prevent elopements, such as staffing security guards and utilizing electronic tracking systems, families must remain vigilant in order to monitor their relative’s safety and make sure that elopements are kept to a minimum.
Miller Kory Rowe LLP knows that nursing home abuse or neglect can be a very serious problem. We know that it can cause significant harm, including emotional trauma and the problems that arise from psychological damage. We care about you and your family, so we’ll always work to seek out the most favorable outcome possible on our clients’ behalf.