One of the most frightful phone calls that you can get when you have a loved one in a nursing home is the one where you are informed that the person has wandered away and cannot be found. This is especially worrisome in cases where the patient has serious mental deficits. Alzheimer’s disease and various forms of dementia can lead to such a scenario. It is not impossible for a well cared for nursing home resident to end up wandering off in the few moments while their care providers are distracted. Yet, it is usually an indication that nursing home abuse or neglect is a factor, and that adequate care is not being provided. In the best case scenario, the resident is quickly located and placed in a more watchful environment. In the worst case scenario, the resident encounters a fatal hazard or misses critical medication doses, and is not found in time to save their lives.
What Causes Nursing Home Residents to Wander Away from the Facility?
One of the most frequent causes of a resident wandering away from a nursing home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is that they are new to the environment and unfamiliar with their surroundings. This is especially so for patients who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, this can also occur when a patient changes medications or has a change of room or a change of routine. It can be caused by the patient becoming hungry or thirty or needing to use the restroom and losing their way. It could be a simple case of confusion. The key factor here is that the patient is not being adequately supervised. In a nursing home where patients are properly cared for, no resident should be able to wander away. In fact, the staff should be aware of the patient leaving their bed in case they require assistance or at least of the patient leaving their room or the premises altogether.
There Are Different Forms of Elderly Wandering from a Nursing Home Facility
Because wandering is such a frequent and serious issue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, nursing homes, the different forms of wandering have been given names based on how they occur:
- Agitated purposeful wandering occurs when a patient is upset and intentionally leaves. There are many reasons that the nursing home resident may become upset or agitated. For example, they may be upset over a perceived insult or oversight, whether or not it was imagined. They may be upset by a missed family visit or by anything that anyone else would be upset by. Because of their frustration, anger, or agitation, they purposely leave the property. In some cases, the behavior is repeated because the source of agitation is not effectively addressed. For instance, the resident doesn’t get along with another resident and frequent arguments occur, then the person may get angry often and wander often.
- Elopement is one of the more dangerous forms of wandering from a nursing home. This occurs when the patient wanders alone outside and is unable to care for themselves or make smart choices about where they go and what they do. These cases are most likely to be caused by confusion and cognitive disturbance. They are also most likely to result in serious consequences.
- Environmentally cued wandering is a form of wandering that results from some kind of environmental factor. For example, the patient may simply follow a hallway without knowing where they are going. They may miss a turn somewhere and end up in an unfamiliar area.
- Fantasy wandering is something that happens when a nursing home resident loses touch with reality and thinks that they are somewhere else. The person may think that they are in a former residence, in a store, in a garden, etc. It could be anything. The patient will likely find it very difficult to understand that they are not actually where they think they are, and they may become upset or agitated when nursing home staff attempt to guide them back to their room.
- Recreational wandering is usually not related to cognitive deficits or confusion, but rather caused by the intention to go for a walk. However, it can be affected by confusion, and it may be difficult to communicate with the patient that they cannot wander off the premises. It is not difficult to address this issue because the person simply needs more exercise on a regular basis.
What Nursing Home Staff Should Do When Residents Wander
All residents of nursing homes in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, should be evaluated to assess how likely they are to wander. If a resident does wander or is likely to wander, then they need additional supervision, and they may need to be locked in a safe and comfortable space. This does not mean that they should have their freedom completely restricted, but that they must be watched carefully. It is up to the staff to find an appropriate balance between safety and freedom. Further, the family and loved ones of the patient must be informed in case any wandering occurs. Depending on the situation, the resident may need to be placed in a different nursing home. If you suspect that your loved one is wandering away due to abuse or neglect, report this to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Nursing Homes.
Contact the David Aylor Law Offices to Learn More About Your Loved One’s Rights
If your loved one has been harmed by nursing home abuse or neglect, whether the harm occurred within the nursing home or when he or she wandered away, you need to be aware of your loved one’s rights. Every resident in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina nursing home has a right to be properly cared for and supervised. Contact a dedicated Myrtle Beach, SC nursing home abuse attorney the David Aylor Law Offices to get a free consultation and learn more.