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Chicago nursing home neglect lawyersHuman beings are naturally curious creatures and this curiosity does not end just because a person requires care in a nursing home. One of the most serious issues in U.S. nursing homes is resident wandering and elopement. Residents sometimes wander through the nursing home facility simply because they are curious or bored. They may also wander or attempt to leave the facility because they are suffering from dementia or another cognitive illness that makes them confused.

Sadly, some nursing home residents wander into dangerous areas and are injured or killed as a result. It is up to nursing home staff to closely monitor nursing home residents and prevent wandering and elopement.

Residents Suffering From Cognitive Disease May Attempt to “Escape” the Nursing Home

If a resident is suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another cognitive problem, he or she may become disorientated and afraid. This confusion may cause the resident to believe that he or she needs to leave the nursing home facility. Nursing home staff should supervise residents with cognitive problems especially carefully so that they do not end up in an unsafe situation. Tragically, residents have died after walking out of nursing home facilities and being exposed to the elements. In one fairly recent case, a 76-year-old nursing home resident passed away after she managed to leave her nursing home unnoticed. Temperatures were below freezing and the woman sadly passed away from hypothermia before she was discovered. A resident who leaves the safety of a nursing home may be at risk of hypothermia, heat stroke, dehydration, slip and fall injuries, and more. This is why it is essential for nursing home staff to monitor the whereabouts of residents at all times.  

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysWhen a person has been able to move about freely his or her whole adult life, it can be extremely difficult to lose that independence after being admitted into a nursing home. Nursing home residents may wander around the nursing home and get into very dangerous situations. A resident who wanders to an unsupervised area of the nursing home could slip and fall, wander into kitchens containing hot stoves, be exposed to hazardous cleaning chemicals, and more. When a resident actually leaves the nursing home facility, this is called elopement. Some nursing home residents have been seriously injured or passed away after being exposed to the elements outside of a nursing home facility.

Residents with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Are Especially at Risk

A great deal of nursing home residents suffer from cognitive diseases that affect their ability to understand what is going on around them. A person with advanced dementia may not understand that he or she is living in a nursing home for his or her own safety. The resident may attempt to “escape” the nursing home facility and go home. A fragile resident who goes outside may become lost or severely injured before nursing home staff even know they are gone.

There are many ways in which a wandering or eloping nursing home patient could be injured. He or she could slip and fall, or the resident could fall down unsecured stairs. If the resident leaves the facility, he or she could be hit by a car or become victim of a crime. Any of these injuries could leave the home itself liable for damages.

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Chicago nursing home injury attorneysFor healthy individuals, taking a spontaneous walk outside is not a danger. However, when elderly or disabled individuals wander away from a long-term care facility like a nursing home, the results can be fatal. When 76-year-old Phyllis Campbell wandered out of the Ohio nursing home she lived in, she ended up outside in freezing temperatures. Campbell, like many nursing home residents, suffered from dementia and did not realize the danger she was in by going outside. Despite wearing a monitoring device that should have sounded alarms, Campbell was not found until the morning after leaving the facility. She had passed away due to hypothermia just 30 feet from the doors to the nursing home. If your loved one was injured or passed away due to the carelessness of a nursing home or other long term care facility, you may be able to pursue compensation.

Residents with Cognitive Impairment May Be Most At-Risk

The term “wandering” is used to describe nursing home residents who leave the safe areas they are supposed to stay in. Nursing homes have many areas such as kitchens and janitorial closets which contain potentially dangerous substances and environmental hazards. A resident suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or another cognitive impairment may not understand that a dangerous situation poses a threat. Confused residents may attempt to leave the facility entirely. This is referred to as “elopement.” Tragically, residents who elope may die before someone finds them. This is why it is so important for nursing home staff to closely supervise residents with cognitive decline. Some nursing homes use monitoring devices and alarms in order to help alert the staff to wandering residents. Unfortunately, as was the case with Phyllis Campbell, these safety measures do not always work.

Staff Should Monitor Residents Who Wander

Nursing home staff should do everything possible to prevent resident wandering and elopement. They must find a balance between allowing the residents to have autonomy and keeping them safe. Staff have an obligation to be aware of residents’ whereabouts and keep them out of harm’s way. Sadly, many nursing homes are understaffed or contain staff with inadequate training. Often, staffing issues like these lead to overlooked resident wandering and elopement.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyAlthough they may also have other health issues, many residents require the constant supervision a nursing home offers because they have a mental deficit such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those with cognitive disabilities often have trouble understanding what is going on around them. They may not be fully aware of their physical limitations and can take unnecessary risks when not supervised by nursing home staff. Sadly, many nursing home residents have been seriously hurt or killed because they ventured into unsafe territory while the staff’s backs are turned.

Wandering and Elopement Defined

Wandering refers to instances when a nursing home resident walks around a nursing home facility unsupervised. Nursing home staff should know the whereabouts of their residents at all times. Those residents with cognitive impairments should be closely monitored. Sometimes wandering residents slip and fall out of staff’s sight and are left suffering in pain for hours. Other times, residents wander into an unsafe area such as the kitchen or storage area and harm themselves on the equipment there.

Elopement occurs when a resident wanders off of the nursing home campus. While some nursing home residents may be able to take walks outside of the facility safely, nursing home staff have an obligation to monitor and supervise these trips. When a resident who does not understand where he or she is due to a disease like dementia leaves the facility, the results can often be fatal. Residents may wander into traffic, trip and fall, be exposed to the elements, or even be attacked by another person.

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