As children of elderly relatives we expect that a nursing facility will always provide the care and assistance necessary. A safe environment is essential to high quality care, yet there are instances where an elderly resident leaves the facility unnoticed and goes missing. Even though some safeguards are in place, there may not be enough supervision in some facilities. When a resident leaves the nursing home it can have devastating results. The person may wander into a dangerous area or could end up hungry and dehydrated. When a patient goes missing, even for a short period of time, the situation is likely a case of nursing home negligence.
Elderly Who Wander
There are many reasons why an elderly person may leave the facility alone. Many of these instances occur with those who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or limited mental capacity. Because they suffer mentally but not necessarily physically, they are able to walk out of the facility and down the street. These patients require almost constant supervision. Some people are more prone to wanting to leave. Some may simply want to go back to their homes or to a relative’s home where they feel more comfortable. Others may become agitated and try to leave on many occasions. Nursing home caregivers must be vigilant in watching all patients but especially those who are known to want to wander.
Problems with Wandering
Wandering can be dangerous and if the person is not quickly located, could even lead to death. Patients with diminished mental skills may be unable to easily communicate with strangers and cannot provide useful information regarding where they live. Elderly people are more prone to falls and tire easily. Once they leave a facility they may quickly become disoriented and lost. Unfortunately, the police are not always called as fast as they should. Nursing homes may want to try to find the individual first, to avoid scrutiny by authorities and family members. Some patients are not even found to be missing immediately and they may have already been gone a long time.
Use of Technology
Closed circuit cameras and door alarms are essential in ensuring resident safety in nursing facilities. However, these systems and technologies can only go so far in offering safety to residents. Facilities need to be adequately staffed and properly trained to review the equipment on a regular basis. Caregivers must regularly check in on residents to make sure they are in place. When a person is prone to wandering, special care must be taken to keep the person secure. Some facilities may try to utilize physical or medical restraints, which are not meant for this type of security.
Relatives of those who have special requirements should be sure to let staff know of these concerns. When a person wanders out of a facility it is an indication of negligent care. Regardless of the length of time a person is missing or whether they were injured, the problem must be reported. If a loved one was harmed due to nursing home abuse or neglect contact the experienced attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP for a consultation.