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Elopement/ Wandering Off

Elopement / Wandering in Nursing Homes


Nursing home residents may be suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's or other disabilities that affect their mental capacity. Elopement, or wandering off, is one of the behaviors exhibited by some residents coping with mental illness.

In general, elopement occurs when a resident wanders from one part of the nursing home to another without notifying staff. The resident in some cases may even leave the premises, putting him or herself in grave danger of being struck by a car or suffering frost bite from exposure. For example, the senior who has wandered off the facility grounds may encounter dangerous traffic conditions or severe weather, putting him or her at risk of severe injuries and even a wrongful death.

If your loved one suffered from nursing home negligence or abuse, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. At The Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman, our Santa Rosa elder law attorneys have experience investigating all types of nursing home negligence claims, including elopement or wandering off. Call (707) 575-7141 today.

Elopement / wandering off might occur when a nursing home is inadequately staffed. It's important for nursing home staff members to be properly trained so they can monitor patients at risk of wandering off site. Many modern nursing homes use monitoring equipment to ensure the residents' safety.


Although the terms “elopement” and “wandering off” are often used interchangeably, they actually represent two separate sets of circumstances. To help you better determine whether your elderly loved one was involved in a case of elopement or a case of wandering off, we describe each below.

  • Elopement
    A nursing home resident who is incapable of keeping himself or herself free from harm, yet manages to successfully leave the facility unsupervised and unnoticed falls under the category of elopement. An elderly person who leaves the facility under conditions that do not allow him or her to adequately protect themselves is in danger of being stranded, getting lost, being attacked, or even getting hit by a car.
  • Wandering
    A nursing home resident who is cognitively impaired, yet manages to aimlessly wander around the facility without supervision is said to be wandering. Unlike elopement, wandering refers only to situations in which the resident remains within the nursing home. Wandering can be especially dangerous if a patient is prone to slipping and falling.


Negligence is the claim that is made most often when an incident of elopement or wandering off occurs in connection to a nursing home facility in Santa Rosa. A facility's failure to comply with industry standards can significantly jeopardize the seniors who reside there; and a staff member's failure to appropriately respond to a resident can put the senior at risk of serious harm. Among the most common forms of negligence that can lead to elopement and wandering include:

  • Inadequate number of supervisory staff at the nursing home facility
  • Improper training of the staff at the nursing home facility
  • Hiring staff members who have failed to appropriately respond to an alarm in the past
  • Failure to implement the right measures for monitoring the entrance and exit of the nursing home facility
  • Failure to install alarms or other safety devices that could prevent elopement or wandering off

Leaving a Nursing Home Resident Unattended or Abandoned


Nursing home residents are living in the facility because they can no longer live independently. Any resident requires some degree of attention and should never be left unattended or abandoned for any significant time period. When nursing home abandonment occurs, a resident may be injured due to malnutrition or dehydration. A senior also may sustain an injury that can become serious and even life-threatening if the resident has been left unattended or abandoned.

If your loved one was left unattended or abandoned at a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced Santa Rosa personal injury attorney can help investigate your case and make sure the responsible parties are held accountable. Call (707) 575-7141 for a free initial consultation. Nursing home abandonment typically occurs in the senior's room, but can occur anywhere on the premises.


Examples of the serious potential consequences of being unattended or abandoned include:

  • Resident goes without food or water for a period of time.
  • Resident is left alone in soiled bedding or in a soiled diaper.
  • Resident develops bed sores due to being left alone.
  • Resident's attempt to reach a staff member through a call bell goes unanswered.

Nursing home abandonment should never be tolerated. Abandonment of a nursing home resident is a violation of state law in California and some other states. Federal laws also protect residents who are abandoned.

Nursing homes must treat their residents with “dignity” and “respect,” according to California nursing home regulations. If you suspect your loved one has been abandoned, don't hesitate to talk to a nursing home lawyer to consider your legal options.


For a free consultation, contact our firm. Nursing home negligence and abuse should never be tolerated. Let an experienced California lawyer stand up for you and your loved one. At The Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman, we're on your side.

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The Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman is committed to answering your questions about Personal Injury and Nursing Home Abuse law issues in Santa Rosa and throughout Northern California. We offer a free consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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