If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you may have heard the term “elopement.” If a family member is in a nursing home, memory care facility or another type of long-term care environment, it’s crucial to know exactly what protocols they have in place to prevent elopement and to return residents safely if they do elope.
Elopement by older adults, as you can guess, has nothing to do with getting married. The National Institute for Elopement Prevention defines it as when someone who is “cognitively, physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or chemically impaired…escapes, or otherwise leaves a caregiving facility or environment unsupervised, unnoticed, and/or prior to their scheduled discharge.”
If a resident elopes from a facility, they run the risk of being struck by a vehicle, being assaulted, killed or succumbing to the extremes of weather. Those are just a few of the fates that could befall them.
Elopement vs. wandering
Sometimes, elopement is confused with “wandering.” However, wandering refers to when a resident gets lost or goes missing within the facility or on its grounds. Wandering is typically less “purpose-driven” than elopement is.
However, it should not be minimized. There are still plenty of premises hazards for an unsupervised person with cognitive issues. Further, wandering can be a precursor to elopement.
What safeguards does your loved one’s facility have to prevent elopement?
This is a question that should be asked by any family considering a care facility for a loved one – even if they have no serious cognitive issues. Medication alone can sometimes make a person disoriented enough to get off the grounds of a facility if it’s not properly secured. People may be particularly prone to eloping in their early days at a facility.
If your loved one has suffered injuries or worse because they were able to wander or elope due to a facility’s negligence, find out what legal options you have for seeking compensation and justice – and for helping prevent the same heartache for another family.