Facilities are Responsible for Patients Who Wander and Should Provide Special Care
Elderly patients requiring 24-hour nursing care are paying for specialized care. Payment either comes from their own insurance, Medicare or savings. When placed in a 24-hour nursing facility, elderly patients are assumed to be under the watchful eye of caretakers. Payment of $5,000 to $10,000 per month should come with certain expectations. Residents should be safe in their surroundings, regardless of their disability. Having a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive disorders, alerts these facilities of the possibility a resident may wander.
Those patients who wander may encounter any number of hazards if not under proper supervision. They may wander into areas that are dangerous- such as stair wells, construction zones, restricted areas that contain dangerous chemicals or outside of the facility and into traffic. Mental impairments may cause patients who wander to have no recollection of where they were when they began to wander and they may easily get lost and forget their way back. Even other residents with mental illnesses that become hostile or visitors with ill intent may pose a hazard to them. Nursing home staff should be, and are responsible for knowing when a resident is showing the tendency to wander and should give special care and attention to that patient in order to keep him or her safe.
Nursing homes in the past have sometimes thought that restraining patients who have the tendency to wander will prevent their aimless wandering, but it can actually contribute to the need to wander instead, causing the patient to want to "escape" the restraints. Supervision is the best treatment for wanderers and when it is known that a person has the tendency to do so, nursing home staff should create a plan that addresses the patient's condition and keep them safe. In the event that a patient is harmed due to wandering into an unsafe area, the nursing home is obligated to pay damages to the patient or patient's family.
It is always unfortunate when a loved one loses his or her cognitive functions and begins to wander both mentally and physically. In order to help loved ones keep and maintain their dignity in their last years, it is important to make sure that nursing homes provide patients with cognitive deficiencies the care and attention that is required to keep them safe without exacerbating the situation and giving them more reason to wander. It may be as simple as having more comfortable surroundings, an appropriate number of staff per ship, and an adequate security plan.
In the event you have a loved one has been injured or has died as the result of having eloped or disappeared from a nursing home, please contact Rich Hitz at Carlson & Burnett, LLP for answers to your legal questions. Contact Rich at 402-952-4179 to set up a free consultation.