When Nursing Home Patients Wander Off


Nursing homes and retirement homes have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their residents at all times. This includes ensuring that residents stay within the facility and don’t wander off.

Unfortunately, wandering off is a common occurrence in nursing homes. When a resident gets out of a facility, the results can be tragic. It is estimated that up to 31 percent of nursing home residents wander off at some point.

What is elopement?

Elopement is considered unsupervised wandering, often leading to a resident leaving a nursing home facility.

Elopement is a risk when a nursing home resident is mobile and active. However, residents who are confined to wheelchairs can also get out of a facility.

Elopement is often prompted by confusion. Sundown syndrome is common in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and is characterized by late-day confusion. These individuals may feel the need to get out of the facility and go home or visit children, for example. These individuals may be more likely to wander off because of this confusion.

The risks of elopement

There are many risks associated with elopement. Any time a resident exits a facility and wanders off, he or she is at risk for:

  • Falls
  • Dehydration
  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions
  • Wandering into traffic
  • Wandering into wooded areas, rivers, lakes, etc.

The results of elopement can be devastating. Residents may suffer injuries or broken bones after they fall on uneven payment. They may miss out on important medications or become dehydrated. In the most devastating of cases, they may die.

Nursing home responsibility

Nursing homes are responsible for the safety of residents. To avoid the risk of elopement, the following should be done:

  • Nursing home staff should be properly trained on how to supervise residents who are prone to wandering.
  • Nursing homes should be adequately staffed to ensure that all residents are supervised.
  • Facilities should be properly secured so it is difficult or impossible for a resident to get out.

When a nursing home resident wanders off and suffers an injury or death, the nursing home can be held responsible. Families may be eligible for compensation.

Free consultation: Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner represents victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Call 800-594-4884 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney in our Houston office.