What Is Wandering and Elopement?

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious issue that affects thousands of people throughout North Carolina every year. When you decide it’s time to move your elderly parent into a nursing home or assisted living facility, you expect your loved one to be cared for properly. The truth is, the very people who might be responsible for the safety of your loved one at the nursing home are often responsible for the injuries your loved one sustains. An issue that might arise with your loved one at a Charlotte nursing home is that of wandering and elopement.

Why do nursing home residents wander?

Nursing home residents wander for a number of reasons. Dementia is a common reason. Some elderly folks simply hate being in a home, and are looking for a bit of adventure. There are also medications that can lead to wandering. Residents who wander might also be influenced to do so by the following:

  • Poor vision
  • Disorientation
  • Issues with communication or language
  • Feelings of fear or anxiety
  • Forgetting where things are located (like a bedroom or a bathroom)

Wandering patients can be seriously injured, especially if they wander outdoors, or into an unfamiliar area. If the patient “makes a break for it,” or attempts to leave the nursing home (on purpose or by accidents), it is classified as elopement: “Elopement is widely defined as a dependent resident leaving a facility without observation or knowledge of departure and under circumstances that place the resident’s health, safety, or welfare at risk.”

Wandering and elopement can put a resident at risk of being hit by a car, falling, or being injured by another person. They may also become dehydrated, suffer hypothermia, or become trapped in an unsafe place, like a storage shed.

Requirements of nursing homes to prevent wandering

Nursing homes have a responsibility to keep your loved ones safe. In order to prevent wandering and elopement, a nursing home should meet the following requirements:

  • Identify all residents who might wander
  • Create a plan for care for those who might be prone to wandering
  • Offer safe spaces inside the facility for wandering
  • Camouflage the exits of the building
  • Install alarms on beds for residents who wander at night
  • Install safety locks on cabinets that contain hazardous items
  • Provide plenty of staffing so all patients can be properly monitored

Holding a nursing home accountable

You can hold a nursing home accountable for neglect if your loved one wanders away and winds up suffering an injury or dies in an accident.  A detailed investigation may show that  the nursing home had a lack of staffing, insufficient security measures or failed to document your loved one properly as someone who might wander. If such an incident occurs, you should  contact the office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman to ensure that the incident is reported to the proper authorities and agencies, or if you suspect that your loved one is not being properly monitored.

If your elderly loved one was injured after wandering or eloping from his or her nursing home, you have legal options. Call the Charlotte nursing home neglect attorneys of Warren & Kallianos, PLLC at 704-377-7777 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment with a member of our team today.


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