Every adult child with a parent in a long-term care facility fears getting a call from an employee of that facility, knowing that it’s probably not good news. The thing they usually dread the most is a call informing them of their parent or loved one’s death. However, there is another call that is almost as frightening a prospect: A call informing them that their loved one has escaped from the facility.

What is the difference between wandering off and elopement?

When a patient at a long-term care facility merely wanders off, they may still be somewhere within the facility. The staff is simply unable to locate them. A thorough search of the premises will likely reveal their location.

However, when a patient elopes from the property, they leave the supposedly secure premises. This is dangerous, as this elopement most often happens with vulnerable adults who are cognitively unable to look after themselves. The resident could suffer serious injury while unsupervised. They could get hit by a car or fall victim to a predator of some kind. They could suffer from weather elements. Anything could happen.

Who is most susceptible to elopement?

Residents with cognitive impairments are most likely to elope from long-term care facilities. Elderly patients with the following conditions are at particularly high risk:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor spatial reasoning
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Boredom
  • Discontent
  • Anxiety

Individuals with these conditions or concerns often don’t understand why they’re in a long-term care facility. Either they can’t remember why they are at the facility or they have concerns about being there—and they see getting out as the top priority. Unfortunately, sometimes they succeed in their escape plan, perhaps through a window, when insufficient staffing or inadequate supervision is at play.

Who is liable for injuries that occur during elopement?

It is the responsibility of the long-term care facility to have systems in place to properly care for residents with these challenges and keep all residents safe. Families entrust their loved ones to these facilities with a certain understanding of security. Therefore, it is often possible to pursue negligence claims for injuries that occur if your loved one elopes.