For some nursing home residents, wandering from safe confines becomes a matter of life or death. Wandering proves dangerous because it puts vulnerable nursing home residents at the mercy of everyone else’s actions and behaviors and other unpredictable circumstances.
Knowing about the risk factors for wandering and elopement in a nursing home may help caretakers and family members prevent it from happening. In a nursing home, caretakers assume the responsibility for responding to wandering and exit-seeking behaviors exhibited by their residents, especially ones suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments.
New Residents in a Nursing Home
Being in a new environment like a nursing home can challenge newcomers, especially if that person previously had a strong sense of home. Being unfamiliar with their new home can be completely overstimulating for nursing home residents. For residents who previously had a strong sense of home, wandering may result from memories of household duties and relationships they attended to at home.
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Nursing home residents may wander as a side effect of medications, especially when caregivers overuse antipsychotic medications to restrain residents with dementia. When caregivers are burdened with a ‘difficult’ patient, they can use medications to control unwanted behavioral side effects of dementia. Unfortunately, the implication of this is that there is the potentially increased risk of wandering, worsened behavior, and a higher mortality rate.
Residents With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Nursing home residents who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia live with a high risk of wandering due to cognitive impairment. Caregivers have a responsibility to minimize the occurrences of harmful wandering, especially for these specific residents.
Some preventative measures against the risk factors for wandering and elopement include providing adequate and appropriate supervision and addressing residents’ needs as an individual with person-centered care. Caregivers also need to pay enough attention to their individual patients in order to address their specific needs and anticipate any potentially harmful behaviors, like wandering.
The Standard of Care
When an older person does not receive the attention they need, residents may wander as a means of addressing the situation independently. These needs can involve social, physical, or mental goals. Some examples of each type of need and how caregivers can address them include:
- Social needs: People living with dementia need social companionship more than ever. A resident suffering from a lack of social stimulation may engage in wandering and get hurt. Nursing home residents need to maintain a sense of dignity and independence, which can be helped by offering a breadth of social engagement to build a sense of community. It is crucial for the nursing home to provide social engagement opportunities that can engage people with dementia.
- Physical needs: Physical health problems can lead to wandering, such as when a resident needs to eat, use the restroom, or get a drink. In addition to assessing a patient’s needs for good physical health, good nursing home care engages residents with non-strenuous physical activities.
- Mental needs: Mental health can suffer from sudden changes in routines, medication side effects, or caregiver neglect. Caregivers must administer individualized care for nursing home residents to avoid mistakes and oversights. Since some instances of wandering result from an unmet need, nursing home caretakers may bear liability when a resident suffers injuries following a wandering accident.
To prevent wandering, good care for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia should include tailored individual medical plans and individualized attention from caregivers.
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A Nursing Home Lawyer May Help You
If your loved one in a nursing home suffered harm following a wandering or elopement incident, a lawyer may help explain your legal options. Not all cases of nursing home abuse or neglect occur intentionally, but the nursing home or caregiver may still bear the liability for any losses your loved one experienced.
If your loved one in a nursing home remains prone to wandering incidents, and suffered injuries due to wandering, our lawyer can seek justice on their behalf. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 201-3999.