Nursing Home Lawyer PA


Elopements or Missing Residents in Nursing Homes

Nearly 45% of resident elopements occur within the first 48 hours of a resident’s admission in a facility.

Families of nursing home residents trust the facility to keep their loved one safe and supervised. This is particularly true when the resident displays behaviors of wandering. When a nursing home or assisted living accepts a resident into their care, they are making a promise that they will provide the guidance and support to meet that resident’s needs. The nursing home fails to deliver on that promise when a resident is able to elope, which is defined as when a resident leaves the building or designated care area without staff knowledge or oversight. Nursing home elopements are serious and dangerous incidents that often result in resident injury or death.
A nursing home must ensure that it adequately assesses its residents for elopement risk. Nearly 45% of resident elopements occur within the first 48 hours of a resident’s admission in a facility. Therefore, it is critical that a nursing home assess the resident immediately upon admission, and routinely, to monitor for elopement risk.

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Risk Factors



Cognitive Deficits

Substance Abuse Dependency

Several risk factors will increase a resident’s potential risk to elope. The first risk factor is a resident vocalizing that they want to leave the nursing home. There are many reasons that a resident might want to leave a nursing home. A resident who has recently been admitted for rehab might be angry about losing independence and attempt to leave.

Alternatively, a confused long-term care resident might be stating they want to leave because “it’s time to get the kids off the school bus.” Regardless of the stated reason, a resident expressing a desire or need to leave the facility is at higher risk of elopement.​

Residents who wander are also at a higher risk of elopement. These residents frequently have cognitive deficits or emotional diagnoses that impair their orientation and decision making. In approximately 80% of elopement cases, the resident is a chronic wanderer. These residents might not necessarily be “exit seeking” but cannot make safe and proper judgements to keep themselves in a safe environment.

Finally, residents with unmet needs such as a pre-existing substance abuse dependency are at a higher risk of elopement. The addiction can be so great that it impels the resident to leave the facility to seek out drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription medications.

Missing Resident Injuries and Death

Once a resident elopes from a nursing home, the risk of injury and death skyrockets. Countless times, a resident has been able to walk out unnoticed and has not been found before succumbing to dangers such as freezing cold temperatures or excessive heat. Other residents have been hit by traffic on a busy street. Still other residents have drowned from falling into lakes, ponds, or other bodies of water. Investigation of nursing home elopements frequently finds that nursing home negligence is ultimately to blame for the resident’s injury or death.

In some cases, facilities fail to identify a resident as a wander risk and have made no attempts to intervene. In other cases, a resident who is known as a wander risk is able to elope due to malfunctioning door alarms or failure of technology devices intended to alert staff to a resident’s location. Many times, the facility simply fails to provide adequate supervision to routinely check on the resident and monitor their whereabouts. Some nursing homes have been found to have falsified documentation about resident monitoring that, in fact, never occurred.

Contact An Attorney Today

Nursing homes that fail to safely monitor and protect residents against elopement must be held accountable for their negligence. Standing up for justice for these residents can be an important part of the healing process for the grieving family and friends who are left after a resident is severely injured or dies due to an elopement. A nursing home lawyer can help you to get closure and justice for residents who suffered needlessly due to a preventable elopement.