Nursing home residents who suffer from dementia and other cognitive and mental health issues are at risk of wandering around or even outside of the nursing home. Wandering residents - sometimes referred to as eloping residents - may injure themselves by slipping or tripping on hazards around or outside of the nursing home, or they may suffer heatstroke when wandering outside in the summer and frostbite or hypothermia when wandering in the winter. 

Families of nursing home residents who are injured while wandering need to know what rights and options they have for holding the nursing home itself liable for their loved one’s injuries. 

Signs That a Nursing Home Resident Is at Risk of Wandering

Residents who suffer from memory and cognitive issues like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or senility are at a much higher risk of wandering than other residents. Signs that a nursing home resident may be at risk for wandering from the facility include:

  • The resident forgets how to get to familiar places
  • The resident has difficulty locating common facilities in the nursing home, such as their room or the cafeteria
  • The resident returns from walks later than normal
  • The resident becomes confused about where they are and expresses a wish or demands to go home
  • The resident talks about past obligations, such as going to work, but in the present tense
  • The resident becomes anxious or confused in crowds

Causes of Wandering

While the cognitive and mental decline of the resident is one of the primary reasons why nursing home residents engage in wandering, there are other potential causes of resident wandering, such as:

  • The resident is new and the facility is unfamiliar to them
  • The resident becomes homesick and wants to return to a more familiar setting
  • Changes in the resident’s medication
  • Changes to or implementation of new routines or policies
  • The resident becomes lost when navigating the facility
  • The resident wants to interact with family and friends outside of the facility

A Nursing Home’s Duty of Care

A nursing home owes its residents a duty of care to take all reasonable precautions to protect residents from foreseeable harm. A nursing home may have breached this duty of care when:

  • The facility knew about a resident’s history of wandering but took no additional steps to prevent future incidents of wandering
  • Failed to conduct an intake examination to ascertain if a resident had a risk of wandering
  • Failed to conduct regular evaluations to watch out for changes to a resident’s condition
  • Failed to hire and train staff to address the risks of wandering residents
  • Failed to adequately supervise residents, including leaving residents at high risk for wander unattended for long periods
  • Failed to have policies and procedures in place to prevent wandering or respond to incidents where residents are suspected of having wandered from the facility

What Compensation Can Be Recovered from a Liable Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one who was injured while wandering around or outside of their nursing home, your family may be entitled to recover compensation for:

  • Costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation for injuries
  • Costs of transferring to a new nursing home facility or alternative living situation, if needed for safety reasons
  • Physical pain and emotional distress
  • Loss of quality of life due to injuries causing permanent disabilities, scarring or disfigurement, or reduced life expectancy

Contact a Rochelle Park Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to Discuss Your Case Today

Seniors in nursing homes and other care facilities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Additionally, nursing home staff needs to ensure that patients are safe and secure at all times. If your loved one suffered an injury, or worse, due to nursing home negligence or abuse in New Jersey, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The experienced nursing home neglect attorneys at The Epstein Law Firm, P.A. represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Paramus, Ridgewood, Mahwah, and Englewood. Call (201) 380-7687 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We have an office conveniently located at 340 West Passaic Street, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.