Nursing Home Wandering and Elopements

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2023 | Nursing Home Negligence |

What is Nursing Home Elopement?

In nursing homes facilities, an elopement happens when a resident that is unsupervised wanders and leaves the secured facility.

This can result in serious injury or even death.

Wandering versus Elopement?

Wandering is when a resident leaves a safe area within the nursing home. If unsupervised, wandering can lead to elopement. Unsupervised wandering and elopement should be properly managed. Elopement results in a patient leaving the secured facility.

If it’s not managed by staff properly, it is nursing home neglect.

Why do Nursing Home Residents Wander?

Nursing home residents may wander for a variety of reasons.

Below is a list of potential reasons that a patient might wander:

  • Dementia
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Unfamiliar environment
  • Changes in medication
  • Unmet physical needs
  • Unmet emotional or psychological needs
  • Confusion
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Sickness
  • An attempt to go home or visit a loved one.

Know the Dangers of Nursing Home Elopement

Some nursing home residents who elope are intentionally leaving because they believe they have something important to do. This type of purposeful wandering can be confusing for the resident. They may be trying to return to a home that no longer exists, visit a relative who has already passed away, or visit their family.

Once they leave the premises of the facility they risk:

What should Nursing Homes Be Doing to Prevent Elopement?

Elopement is preventable with the proper policies and procedures in place. Long-term care facilities and nursing homes are required to properly staff the facility, train employees about wandering and elopement, provide a plan of care for each resident, and create and maintain a safe environment. This may include locked doors, cameras, wander alert bracelets, and other measures.

The Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable mental, physical, and mental well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care.

SomeFederal Nursing Home Regulationsfor long-term care facilities:

  • Promote each resident’s quality of life. (42 CFR § 483.15)
  • Maintain the dignity and respect of each resident. (42 CFR § 483.15)
  • Develop a comprehensive care plan for each resident. (42 CFR § 483.20)
  • Ensure that residents receive adequate supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents. (42 CFR § 483.25)
  • Promote each resident’s quality of life. (42 CFR § 483.15)
  • Maintain the dignity and respect of each resident. (42 CFR § 483.15)
  • Be administered in a manner that enables it [the nursing home] to use its resources effectively and efficiently. (42 CFR § 483.75)


A major contributing factor to elopement is understaffing. When a facility is not properly staffed, residents go unattended for long amounts of time. Wandering and elopement occur when residents are left unsupervised, and their needs are not being met. This can also lead to serious injuries. Having the proper patient to employee ratio is critical when caring for elderly residents but even more important on dementia units.

While elopement should not occur, it unfortunately does. The steps taken by the nursing home administration, director, and staff in a particular situation can drastically change the outcome. If they fail to react quickly when an alarm goes off or fail to follow proper protocol when a resident is missing, this is negligence.

Contact the attorneys at Pratcher Krayer, LLC if you or a loved one has a potential claim involving nursing home abuse.

Fierce Advocates For Elders’ Rights

At Pratcher Krayer LLC our attorneys understand the respect and care elders deserve. We know that facilities have a duty to provide their residents with a place to age comfortably and with dignity.

If they neglect this duty, we won’t stop until they compensate the victims. Call us today at 302-803-5291 to schedule a free consultation.