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Is Wandering a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse?

Wandering is a significant concern for nursing home residents and their families, but is wandering a sign of nursing home abuse? Residents who wander without supervision can unknowingly put themselves in dangerous situations; and, tragically, in some cases wandering can be fatal. While some cases of wandering are due to the deterioration of residents’ mental health conditions, many cases are due to nursing home neglect and abuse. As The Washington Post reported last year: 

“Since 2018, more than 2,000 people have wandered away from assisted-living and memory-care facilities unnoticed or been left unattended for hours outside. Nearly 100 have died, and state inspectors frequently found evidence of neglect.”

With this in mind, if a parent or other member of your family has suffered or died after wandering from a nursing home in Wisconsin, you should speak with a lawyer. Nursing homes can—and should—be held liable in many cases. If your family has a claim for nursing home abuse after a wandering incident, taking legal action could be critical for protecting your loved one if he or she is still alive and for ensuring that your family has the financial resources needed to manage its present circumstances.

Why Wandering May Be a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse 

Nursing home residents who have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are prone to wandering. There are several reasons why. In some cases, they may be confused or forget where they are. In others, factors as simple as a locked door or a long hallway can be enough to trigger wandering. Residents who become agitated due to their conditions may be more prone to wandering as well, as they either seek out help, seek an escape, or simply start walking as something to do in an effort to calm their nerves.

These are all sad situations, and nursing homes are supposed to ensure that their residents don’t wander in these types of scenarios. In fact, avoiding the risks associated with wandering is one of the main reasons why many people choose nursing home care.

But, nursing home residents can also wander for other reasons. Another common cause of wandering is abuse. Whether they realize it or not, residents who experience abuse may wander in an effort to save themselves from further emotional torment or physical harm.

With this in mind, when a loved one wanders from a nursing home, it is important to think back and try to identify any potential signs of abuse. While it can be difficult to identify these signs in the moment (as most people are unaware that they should have concerns about potential abuse in nursing homes), hindsight is often 20-20 in this regard. For example, if your loved one exhibited any of the following signs before wandering, this could indicate that his or her wandering was the result of abuse:

  • Bed sores (pressure ulcers)
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Fear of nursing home staff members
  • Infections and other preventable medical conditions
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Missing medications or personal items
  • Poor hygiene

Again, these are just examples. Following a wandering incident, it is important to review all of the relevant facts to determine exactly why the incident happened. In many cases, this will require an investigation. Our lawyers have significant experience investigating cases of suspected nursing home abuse, and we can use our experience to help you assess your loved one’s living conditions and make informed decisions about your next steps.

What if Your Loved One’s Wandering Was Due to Abuse?

If your loved one’s wandering was due to abuse, what does this mean for your family’s legal rights? When nursing home residents fall victim to abuse, they and their families can take legal action to recover their economic and non-economic losses. These losses can be substantial; and, as a result, filing a successful claim is often extremely important.

Taking legal action also helps ensure that the nursing home is held accountable—and this can help to prevent similar incidents in the future. Nursing home abuse usually doesn’t stop on its own. At Boller & Vaughan, we are committed to helping protect nursing home residents in Wisconsin, and our lawyers are available to take immediate action on your family’s behalf if necessary.

Speak with a Madison Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for FREE

When you entrust the care of your family member to a nursing home, assisted living facility, or memory care facility, you deserve to feel confident that your loved one is safe and well looked after. When nursing homes fail to prevent wandering, they put lives in danger.

Contact Boller & Vaughan today at 608-268-0268 or [email protected] to arrange a FREE case evaluation. We proudly help clients throughout Wisconsin from our office in Madison.