Assisted Living Residents Wander off Unnoticed; Many Die:

Elopement, the event of a resident leaving his or her facility undetected and unsupervised, is a surprisingly common occurrence of nursing home malpractice in American assisted living facilities. Elopement all too frequently results in death, requiring the services of a wrongful death attorney.

Of the 2,000-plus residents who wandered away or were left unattended outside of American assisted-living and dementia-care units since 2018, approximately 100 of them died, according to an investigation by The Washington Post. An exact number of deaths is not possible, says the article, “because no one is counting.”

Despite charging an average of $6,000 per month to look after and protect its residents—including those with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive problems—assisted living facilities in America experience wandering residents on nearly a daily basis, a troubling pattern of nursing home malpractice. The Post’s investigative article revealed that these disappearances, called elopements, happened even at expensive luxury assisted living facilities, even at special memory care units with specially-trained staff, and even after previous elopement deaths or injuries occurred at a facility. In some cases, families were not told the truth about what happened to their loved ones.

People who suffer from dementia not only comprise almost half of American assisted living residents overall, but also they are the greatest elopement risks. Although residents with dementia can be confused, their strong mobility and frequent dislike of institutional living lead many to wander off from their facilities. According to the article, 61 percent of those who eloped died after exposure to extreme temperatures.

The following harrowing examples cited by the article exemplify the type of fatal elopement that requires the intervention of a wrongful death attorney:

  • In North Carolina, a 77-year-old man who had previously disappeared from his facility died 20 hours after wandering off, He was found covered in fire ants and yellow jacket stings.
  • In South Carolina a 79-year-old dementia patient who suffered from auditory hallucinations walked off undetected and wandered for 12 days before drowning in a shallow swamp less than a half-mile from the facility. His body was discovered two days later.
  • In Colorado, an 86-year-old resident died after being left for six hours in a hot courtyard; her family was told she had “passed outside watching the sun set, an activity that she loved.”
  • In Arizona, an 88-year-old woman died in 104-degree heat in an irrigation ditch after staff at her assisted living facility failed to do resident checks.
  • In Michigan, an 82-year-old woman died after wandering into a snowstorm in the middle of the night. Her care plan had not been updated to reflect a change in sleep pattern and worsening confusion. No bed check was conducted that night between 3:15 and 7 a.m.
  • In Florida, a 100-year-old woman was found dead from hypothermia outside of her senior living facility. Staff thought she was in her room.
  • In Iowa, a 77-year-old Alzheimer’s patient with a history of wandering was found near the exit of her assisted living facility, her body covered with ice. She later died at a nearby hospital.

Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities are state regulated and are not subject to strict federal staffing and training requirements. According to The Post, state inspectors reviewing elopement deaths repeatedly cited evidence of low staff-to-resident ratios; they also continually discovered the following evidence of nursing home malpractice by assisted living staff:  ignoring alarms, skipping bed checks, sleeping on the job, general nursing home neglect, and falsifying records.

If your loved one elopes from the facility at which he or she resides and has sustained an injury, nursing home malpractice has occurred and a nursing home malpractice lawyer should be immediately contacted. In the terrible circumstance of death occurring as a result of elopement, it is imperative a wrongful death attorney is secured.

Protecting Your Loved Ones from Nursing Home Malpractice and Wrongful Death

Attorney Brian P. Murphy represents victims of abuse and neglect in Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing homes. As an accomplished nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian Murphy holds Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing homes accountable for substandard care and incidents of abuse, particularly staff negligence that leads to elopement or any type of nursing home malpractice that results in wrongful death. Attorney Brian Murphy is convinced that no resident of a Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home should need to live in fear of elder abuse, neglect, or any kind of nursing home malpractice. He is ready to discuss your legal options. If you or your loved one needs to contact a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, call Brian Murphy today.