Can I sue a nursing home for letting my loved one walk out unsupervised?


The term “elopement” means that a nursing home resident has managed to wander outside without the nursing home staff being aware. To senior residents with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or other health issues, grave injuries may result. Sometimes even death. Despite evolving safety measures and innovations, elopement cases continue to increase every year.

Not all nursing home residents are at the same risk to elope. Those with mental impairments, like Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, are more prone to wander. Further, residents with full mobility are at an increased elopement risk, as opposed to those with difficulty walking, or who walk with the assistance of a device.

Elopement may be triggered by various factors. One major factor is environmentally cued wandering. That is, responding to noises, temperature or climate, persons, or light in the facility. Because those with cognitive incapacities are more sensitive to external stimulus, it is more likely they will seek a “safer” environment elsewhere. Another factor is the need for assistance, like with hunger or toileting, or the need to be somewhere or with someone familiar.

Preventing elopement starts at admission. Each resident should be assessed for his or her risk of elopement. Using common assessment tools, like the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory, the Revised Algase Wandering Scale, or the Rating Scale for Aggressive Behavior, nursing home staff can use characteristics and observed behaviors to score the resident’s propensity to wander. From there the nursing home staff can take steps appropriate to the resident’s risk level. For example, placing the resident’s picture on the door of the room, or stop signs on the ground.

Still, nursing homes can take other preventative steps. Principally, these are making sure that exits are locked or set to alarm if opened. Further, appropriate training so that staff can spot and eliminate elopement triggers is essential.

Under Georgia law, nursing homes owe a duty of care to each resident to keep them safe from the dangers of elopement. If your loved died or was seriously injured after walking outside of a nursing home and you are wondering if you have a claim, then please, feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home abuse lawyers today. Our consultations are always free. If you would like more information about this topic, be sure to click on our other videos, or better yet, click the subscribe button to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you.