Unsafe wandering is a growing problem among nursing home residents in Georgia. Estimates show that 31 percent of patients wander at least once. The majority of these patients suffer from dementia. Due to this impairment, they are much more likely to sustain injuries while wandering.
Types of Wandering
- Unsafe wandering includes excessive wandering within a nursing home. It may endanger the patient or disturb fellow residents.
- Elopement is the next degree of wandering. It applies to incidents where residents leave a nursing facility unsupervised.
Even patients with limited mobility may encounter hazards when wandering inside a nursing facility or eloping off the property. In a study from the Annals of Long-Term Care, researchers mention one incident where an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient used his motorized wheelchair to leave the facility. He was later found on the sidewalk in front of the nursing home.
One state developed a handbook for preventing unsafe wandering after a cognitively impaired woman accessed a doorway to her nursing home’s roof. When the staff finally found her, she had developed severe hypothermia that led to her death. Because of incidents like these, more organizations are studying the problem and identifying ways to provide additional supervision to at-risk patients.
Causes of Wandering and Elopement
Injuries and fatalities linked to nursing home negligence are increasing as more seniors require daily assistance. Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are especially vulnerable to deficiencies. Here are several common reasons why cognitively impaired nursing patients wander.
- Behavioral triggers
- Depression or anxiety
- Emotional responses
- Excessive sensory stimulation
- Ingrained daily activities
- Lack of sensory stimulation
It might be understandable if a patient continues a longtime habit, but wandering can have a more serious cause. In 2011, the government investigated overmedication in nursing homes. Medicare records showed that 88 percent of claims for off-label antipsychotic use came from dementia patients in nursing homes. These patients were taking medications like Depakote and Risperdal, which carry black-box warnings for their deadly side effects. The drugs are known to increase the number of injury falls in nursing homes and are linked to nocturnal wandering.
If a loved one was harmed while in the care of a nursing home, that business must be held accountable. An experienced elder abuse lawyer can investigate the cause and fight to recover compensation. When nursing professionals fail to identify at-risk patients and develop suitable care plans, they are negligent.
Call 855-329-7144 to request a free consultation with an attorney at Slover, Prieto, Marigliano & Holbert. We represent victims of nursing home abuse from offices in Atlanta and five major cities.