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Elderly man wandering away from a nursing home.

Elopement / Wandering

What is elopement?

Elopement refers to a dangerous situation where a resident is able to wander away from the facility. This typically occurs when the facility:


  • fails to properly assess a resident for elopement risk,

  • fails to properly care plan for elopement,

  • fails to properly supervise the resident,

  • fails to maintain appropriate security measures,

  • fails to implement elopement policies and procedures,

  • fails to train employees, or

  • fails to maintain adequate staffing levels.

Why do residents elope?

While each situation is different, some common themes generally emerge. In some instances, residents with mental illness elope because they believe they need to go to work, visit a friend or family member, or feed an animal that might not exist. Other times, they hear noises they are either drawn to (a police siren) or wish to escape from (a door alarm). Residents might also elope because they are being abused and/or neglected at the facility and cannot voice their concerns.


What are the dangers of an elopement?

Resident elopement has the potential to lead to dire outcomes based on the following:


  • when the facility recognizes the resident’s absence,

  • how long the resident has been gone,

  • how far the resident was able to go,

  • what dangers the resident faces while absent from the facility (e.g., navigating a roadway or intersection, drowning in a nearby body of water, facing extreme weather, experiencing dehydration/malnutrition, lacking necessary medications, falling and sustaining an injury, etc.), and

  • who the resident encounters along the way (e.g., police officers or ill-intentioned individuals).


If your loved one eloped from a facility and sustained injuries, including death, contact the experienced attorneys at FIDJ, before it’s too late.

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