Elopement (Wandering Off)

A nursing home must provide for the safety of residents including prevention from the elopement (wandering off) of the residents. Residents should not be allowed unsupervised access to the outdoors. A resident should not be free to exit the nursing home and roam around the streets. Residents left out in the cold or heat can suffer significant health problems including death.

The nursing home must secure and monitor the doors, windows and stairways. Alarm devices should be installed to notify nursing home personnel when a resident wanders outside or in stairwells. The nursing home should be able to account for all residents at all times.

However, a nursing home cannot use restraints. A resident must be free from all physical and chemical restraints unless the a restraint is needed to treat a resident’s medical symptoms. Physical restraints are any method or devise, material, equipment attached or near the resident’s body which cannot be easily removed and which restricts freedom of movement. Physical restraints include arm and leg restraints, hand mitts, lap cushions, ties or vests, side rails, and chairs that prevents a resident from rising. Chemical restraints are using a drug for discipline or convenience and not because the drug is needed for medical symptoms.