Nursing Home Wandering and Elopement, nursing home wandering and elopement, nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer

Wandering and Elopement



Wandering and Elopement are related concepts. Wandering refers to aimless movement throughout the facility where the resident puts his or her safety at risk due to an inability to appreciate potential danger. Elopement refers to the resident’s ability to leave the facility unsupervised and unnoticed putting the resident’s safety in danger. Nursing home wandering and elopement have no place in our country’s elder care facilities. If your loved has one been endangered in a nursing home setting, call our firm to schedule a free consultation with our nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer.

The Carlson Law Firm Can help you hold the nursing home where your loved one was injured accountable. In addition to more than 40 years representing clients, we have one of the leading nursing home neglect and abuse attorneys in the country, Ernest Tosh, ready to fight for you. Tosh takes fighting for the rights of our elderly citizens seriously. So much so, that he only takes on nursing home cases. Tosh, along with The Carlson Law Firm’s investigators and nurses are the team you want on your side. We can help you and your loved one get the justice for nursing home wandering and elopement that you so rightly deserve. Schedule a free consultation with our leading nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer today.

Wandering vs. Elopement

Wandering is a resident’s ability to walk around freely within the nursing home. When a nursing home nursing allows a patient to meander in a facility they are putting a resident at risk for injury. In fact, the risk is greater for those who have difficulty orienting themselves to their surroundings. It may be difficult for them to respond to environmental stimuli or react in such a way to protect or keep themselves safe. Additionally, confused residents may have a hard time understanding where they are.  

Elopement, on the other hand, is unsupervised wandering. Particularly, the kind of unsupervised wandering where a patient is able to leave the nursing home facility. Supervision is critical to keeping nursing home residents safe. By properly supervising residents, a nursing home will ensure that residents do not put themselves at risk for injury or death.

Elopement Risks in Nursing Homes

Unsupervised wandering is not only a risk for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Nursing home residents with severe sleep disorders, increased stress levels and aggressiveness can also be at risk for strolling the facility without a purpose.

Determining Wandering and Elopement Risks

There are several tools in psychiatric care that can determine a resident’s likelihood to wander. The Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) is one that uses a rating scale based on 29 behaviors. In addition to the tests, staff members in nursing homes must be properly trained. By having security measures to deal with elopement, nursing homes can decrease the chances of at-risk residents getting out. Furthermore, staff members need to remain vigilant to ensure residents do not leave.

Sending a loved one to a nursing home is a difficult decision. And when those nursing homes break your trust you are entitled to seeking just compensation. Contact our firm’s nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer for a free consultation.

Types of Wandering in Nursing Homes

There are many reasons for wandering that result in different types of wandering. By understanding the type of wandering that the patient is engaging in, the staff can prevent incidents of elopement from occurring. Staff should be aware of their individual resident’s condition.


In these cases of wandering, a resident will respond to stimuli in the environment. For example, a hallway can cue a patient to wander while a chair may cue them to sit.


A patient who wants or needs more exercise may result in recreational walking. This is an easy fix for staff. By allowing the patient to get time for exercise will reduce the patient’s need to wander off on his or own to exercise.

Agitated Purposeful 

This one of the more dangerous types of wandering. Agitated wandering may occur when the patient becomes agitated, scared or annoyed. Threats can be real or imaginary, but nonetheless, they put patients at risk.

Fantasy or Reminiscent 

Fantasy wandering occurs when a resident is unaware of their actual surrounding. They will wander according to an imagined environment. Much like environmental wandering, the resident’s surrounding could trigger the imagined surroundings.

No matter the type of wandering, they can all result in elopement if the nursing home staff does not take proper security measures. Patients can often get hurt or killed when they are allowed to wander outside unsupervised. Nursing home staff must keep an eye on patients who are likely to wander. Contact a nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer if your loved suffering elopement injuries. At The Carlson Law Firm, we care and we can help.

Physical or Chemical Restraints

Dealing with wandering residents by the use of physical or chemical restraints is not the right way to deal with patients. By trying to restrain patients from walking about without purpose, nursing homes may be putting the residents at higher risk for injury and depression. For example, physical restraints may cause:

  • Strangulation, or restricted breathing
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Stiffness
  • Incontinence
  • Cuts and bruising (can lead to infections)
  • Loss of dignity
  • Depression

Most importantly, nursing home physical and chemical restraints are illegal. Federal law prohibits nursing home restraint in the following situations:

  • To punish or discipline a patient
  • make patient care more convenient
  • substitute for other activities
  • in place of treatment
  • to permanently control a patient

If your loved one has suffered from nursing home neglect or abuse, contact our firm for a free consultation. Our leading expert nursing home wandering and elopement attorney Ernest Tosh can help you decide if seeking civil remedies is the right step for your family.

What Should Nursing Homes Do To Protect Residents From Wandering and Elopement?

While aimless walking is common in persons with cognitive disorders, such as dementia, a nursing home still has a responsibility to protect your elderly loved one. Nursing homes are required to assess each resident to determine their risk for wondering. If the risk is there, the facility is to initiate a plan of care specifically designed to care for the residents at high risk for wandering and elopement.

Some aspects of such care plans include:

  • To consistently monitor doors—especially during shift changes where residents are particularly inclined to wander
  • Place residents that have been characterized “at risk” for walking without purpose closer to nursing stations so that they can be more closely monitored
  • Using alarms on the resident’s bed, wheelchair or door as well as the residents themselves
  • Exit doors should be alarmed to notify staff when residents leave the facility

If these steps have not been taken and harm has come to your loved one in a nursing home, contact a nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer right away. By holding nursing homes and long-term care facilities accountable for negligence, you will get justice for your loved one while also protecting the right to safety of future nursing home residents.

Nursing Home Wandering and Elopement Negligence

A nursing home must evaluate each patient upon admission to assess the risks of the resident’s wandering. Statistically, the first incident of aimless meandering will happen less than 48 hours after a patient has been admitted. Nursing home staff need to walk a fine line between protecting residents while also allowing some level of freedom. Staff should take an individualized approach to dealing with residents with a propensity for walking without purpose.

When the staff fails to prevent wandering and elopement, the nursing home may be at-fault for negligence. A facility may be found negligent if:

  • Lacks alarms to alert staff if a resident’s attempts to leave the home or go places they should not.
  • A lack of locks or other devices on exits to prevent residents from leaving the premises unsupervised.
  • Improper training of staff on how to adequately supervise residents.
  • Fails to hire enough staff to properly supervise residents.
  • Continued employment of staff members who failed to properly respond to a previous alarm.

A Nursing Home Wandering and Elopement Lawyer From The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

You did the research to put your loved one into a safe environment where they would have assistance with daily life and get the kind monitoring they deserve. When a nursing home breaks that trust you may be entitled to compensation for the suffering your loved one endured. Nursing home neglect and abuse have no room in our society. If your loved one suffered injury from nursing home wandering and elopement, contact us. The Carlson Law Firm has a nursing home wandering and elopement lawyer ready to help you and your loved one.

If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse you should take action quickly and contact us to set up a free consultation. Someone from our team is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.