If you have a loved one with dementia or any amount of cognitive impairment, one of your biggest concerns when finding them an appropriate care facility is that they will be in a safe environment where they’ll have appropriate supervision. You don’t want them to be able to wander into an unsafe area or – worse – off the grounds entirely.
According to the National Institute for Elopement Prevention, elopement occurs when someone “who is cognitively, physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or chemically impaired…escapes, or otherwise leaves a caregiving facility or environment unsupervised, unnoticed, and/or prior to their scheduled discharge.”
Seniors who leave their facilities unnoticed – which is known as “elopement” — can be struck by cars, assaulted, succumb to the elements and more. They can be in danger just by missing a scheduled treatment or administration of medication.
Sometimes people use the terms “wandering” and “eloping” interchangeably. Neither should occur, and both can put people at risk of harm. However, they aren’t the same thing. Wandering involves getting lost or perhaps hiding but still within or on the grounds of a facility.
What protocols should facilities have in place?
When residents are admitted, the facility should identify whether a person has a history of leaving their home on foot or even driving off. Of course, anyone with dementia or cognitive impairment should be considered at risk for eloping or wandering – especially in a new environment.
Nursing homes and other care facilities should have safety protocols in place to prevent people from leaving the facility on their own. They also need to have emergency procedures for locating missing residents. These should include notifying law enforcement and other local authorities as well as the family.
If a loved one eloped from a care facility and suffered harm or worse, find out what your best options are for seeking justice and compensation. By taking action, you can also help prevent other families from suffering as you have.