Elopement and Wandering

Elderly person with walker

The law requires nursing home residents to receive adequate supervision to prevent elopement (escaping from the nursing home) or wandering. When a resident enters a nursing home, administrators must develop a plan of care based on the person's state of health, nutrition status, and risk of elopement and/or wandering. Residents who have a cognitive or mental impairment or entered a nursing home against their will are especially at risk for elopement or wandering.

A nursing home may be liable for negligence if it does not take the proper steps to prevent elopement or wandering, which is a type of nursing home abuse and can pose serious risks for your loved one's safety.


"Elopement" refers to the ability of a resident – who is not capable of protecting himself or herself from harm – to successfully leave the nursing home unsupervised and unnoticed. Depending on your loved one's health, elopement can have serious consequences. Your loved one could walk in front of a car, be stranded in the cold, get lost, etc. If your loved one needs to take medicine for a condition or disease and leaves the nursing home, the medical complications could even cause death.

For many families, situations like these are nightmares that have become reality. We hear about elderly people who escape from nursing homes on the news and who disappeared, but we never expect that it could happen to our own loved one. It's devastating to find out that the nursing home – which is supposed to keep a loved one safe from harm – neglected to do so.


On the other hand, "wandering" refers to a cognitively-impaired resident's ability to move about inside the nursing home aimlessly and enter into a dangerous situation. The nursing home must assess the resident's risk of wandering and include it within the plan of care.

Negligence Related to Elopement and/or Wandering

When a nursing home resident who is not capable of protecting himself or herself from harm, or who is impaired mentally, elopes or wanders and gets hurt, the nursing home may be negligent. At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we know there are many situations in which the nursing home may be responsible, including:

  • Failing to hire enough staff to properly supervise residents
  • Failing to properly train staff on how to supervise residents
  • Failing to have alarms or other devices to prevent elopement and/or wandering
  • Failing to take the right measures to allow residents to exit and enter the nursing home unattended
  • Hiring staff members who failed to properly respond to an alarm previously

Elopement Abuse Prevention Tips

Tips to prevent elopement and wandering injuries:

  • Choosing a nursing home is a very important decision. If elopement or wandering concerns you, you should request detailed information from any nursing home about how they prevent elopement and wandering. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions – your loved one's safety is critical, and you want peace of mind knowing he or she will be safe in a nursing home.
  • You should also get detailed information on the staff to patient ratio. Although this information should always be considered when choosing a nursing home, it is even more important when the potential resident is an elopement or wandering risk.
  • If you find out a resident eloped or wandered at any time from a nursing home, do not consider that nursing home.

Legal Consultation of Elopement or Wandering Claims

Many residents in nursing homes are confused and disoriented and must be protected from walking out of the home and becoming lost or injured. When evaluating these claims, a nursing home attorney will check to see if the nursing home took the proper steps to prevent elopement and wandering:

  • Assessing the resident for elopement and wandering risk (dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and medications that cause confusion, attitude about entering a nursing home)
  • Prior history of elopement, wandering, and forgetting whereabouts
  • Restraint use on the resident in a nursing home or hospital previously

If a resident is at risk for elopement or wandering, the nursing home should take the following precautionary measures:

  • Use preventive devices such as alarms or electronic devices on the patient, alarms on the bed, or alarms on the exit doors
  • Monitor the exit doors of the home
  • Move an at-risk resident to a room that allows for closer observation

If the nursing home neglected to do any of these things or allowed the resident to elope or wander, they may be liable for the injuries your loved one suffered as a result of the elopement or wandering. When you choose Edgar Snyder & Associates, we know your loved one's safety is your priority, and we're ready to protect your loved one's legal rights and hold the nursing home accountable for its actions.

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