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Tragedy can occur when loved ones wander from nursing homes

When your parent began to show signs of dementia, it may not have surprised you, especially if Alzheimer's runs in your family. You may have done your best to take care of your dad or mom while you could, knowing that, eventually, he or she would need more extensive attention. Finding a nursing home was a logical solution.

Since 60 percent of those with dementia tend to wander, nursing homes with Alzheimer's units typically have alarmed doors and other safety precautions in place. That is why the phone call informing you that your parent wandered away may come as a complete shock.

Wandering and nursing homes

If your loved one slipped out of a nursing home unnoticed and suffered injury or harm, it's possible it this wasn't the first time the nursing home failed in its duty to monitor your parent's whereabouts. Even with alarms that signal when someone has left a unit, overworked, undertrained or negligent staff members may be desensitized to the alarm sounds and ignore it.

Factors that may contribute to a nursing home resident's wandering include:

  • Reactions to new medications
  • Confusion over new living arrangements
  • Stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Forgetfulness during nighttime trips to the restroom

When dementia patients leave nursing home grounds, they are at great risk. The elderly are prone to falls, weather exposure and dehydration in addition to the side effects of missing doses of medication. While many wandering residents may be located quickly before they even leave the boundaries of the home, others may wander for hours or days, vulnerable to accidents, injuries and illnesses. 

Seeking answers

Following a loved one's wandering episode, you likely have many questions. How could this happen? Could someone have prevented this? Who is responsible? You may also wonder about the pain, fear and confusion your loved one experienced while wandering beyond the nursing home boundaries. You have every right to seek answers to your questions.

It's important to investigate what happened and to hold staff memebers and nursing homes accountable for failing to provide safe environments for their residents. In some cases, you and your family may benefit from the advice and assistance of an attorney who can help determine whether taking a matter to civil court is the best course of action.

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