Elopement / Wandering


The law requires nursing home residents to receive adequate supervision to prevent elopement or wandering. When a resident enters a nursing home, a plan of care must be developed. The resident’s risk of elopement and/or wandering must be assessed within this plan of care.


“Elopement” refers to the ability of a resident – who is not capable of protecting himself from harm – to successfully leave the nursing home unsupervised and unnoticed and enter into harm’s way.


On the other hand, ” wandering” refers to a cognitively-impaired resident’s ability to move about inside the nursing home aimlessly and without an appreciation of personal safety needs and enter into a dangerous situation. A nursing home resident’s risk of wandering must also be assessed within the plan of care.

Negligence Related to Elopement and/or Wandering

When a nursing home resident who is not capable of protecting himself or herself from harm or who is cognitively impaired, elopes or wanders and gets hurt, the nursing home may be negligent because it:

  • Failed to hire enough staff to properly supervise the resident
  • Failed to properly train staff on how to supervise residents
  • Failed to employ alarms or other devices to prevent elopement and/or wandering
  • Employed staff members who failed to properly respond to an alarm

Oftentimes, there are devices which cost only a few dollars that could be employed to prevent elopement or wandering. For example, a simple hardware-store chime or buzzer could be installed on a rear door that would alert an attendant when door has been opened.