Preventable vs. Unpreventable Elopements: Criteria in Nursing Homes

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Preventable vs. Unpreventable Elopements: Criteria in Nursing Homes


Elopements in nursing homes present a significant challenge for caregivers, administrators, and families alike. As such incidents can lead to injuries, legal ramifications, and tarnished reputations for healthcare providers, the importance of understanding the nuances of elopement cannot be overstated. One crucial distinction is between preventable and unpreventable elopements.

The Definition of Elopement in Nursing Homes

Before diving into the nuances of preventable versus unpreventable elopements, let’s revisit what elopement means in the context of nursing homes. Elopement refers to the act of a resident leaving a facility without authorization or supervision, often putting themselves at risk of harm. Elopements are especially concerning when they involve residents with cognitive impairments, as they may lack the ability to protect themselves or return to the facility safely.

Preventable Elopements: Criteria and Features


  • Identifiable Risk Factors: If a resident has known risk factors for elopement, such as dementia or a history of wandering, and no steps are taken to address these, the elopement may be considered preventable.
  • Inadequate Supervision: An elopement that occurs due to a lack of sufficient staffing or surveillance systems is generally considered preventable.
  • Non-Adherence to Care Plan: If a resident’s care plan outlines specific measures to prevent elopement and these are not followed, resulting in an elopement, it is considered preventable.
  • Failure in Protocol: Often involves a breakdown in established facility procedures.

Unpreventable Elopements: Criteria and Features


  1. Sudden Changes in Behavior: If a resident with no history or risk factors for elopement suddenly attempts to leave, it might be considered unpreventable.
  2. Act of God: Unforeseeable natural events, like severe weather conditions, can create scenarios where elopement becomes unpreventable despite best practices.
  3. Third-Party Involvement: If a resident is assisted in eloping by a visitor or an outsider against all preventive measures, it may be deemed unpreventable.


The distinction between preventable and unpreventable elopements in nursing homes is not just semantic; it has profound implications for resident safety, legal liability, and the quality of care.



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Sanga Turnbull

Sanga Turnbull is the founder and principal attorney at The Turnbull Law Firm, a Florida law firm helping personal injury victims in Winter Haven and Orlando recover compensation for harm done to them by the negligence of others. The comprehensive personal injury practice at The Turnbull Firm includes all manner of motor vehicle accidents, nursing home neglect and abuse, slip and fall, workplace and industrial accidents, medical malpractice, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, and more. Injury victims or their families are invited to call The Turnbull Firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation about any potential claims they may have.