Lost or Missing From a Nursing Home in New York

Anyone with dementia is in danger of wandering and becoming lost, even in the best New York City residential care facility, whether a nursing home or assisted living facility.  It is extremely important that nursing home staff be aware of patients that might wander and know how to find them quickly once they do.

Dementia and Wandering

People with dementia wander because they are disoriented, restless, agitated or anxious. They may be looking for someone, or something, or believe there is some chore that they must do.  Once they wander, they are unable to recognize their surroundings and return to safety.  The longer they are lost, the greater their risk of death by exposure to heat or cold, drowning (even in shallow water), or being hit by a vehicle.  If your loved one has been lost by a New York Nursing Home, you need to call a NYC Elder Abuse Lawyer.

Assessment and Prevention

All nursing home residents should be thoroughly assessed for risk of wandering.  Some are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other diseases causing disorientation and memory loss. Early symptoms of dementia, however, may go undiagnosed for years.  Family members can be instrumental in providing valuable information:  Does the relative have difficulty with routine tasks such as preparing meals, keeping a schedule or managing medication?  Does the relative show signs of poor judgment, like leaving the stove on? Does the relative become lost in familiar surroundings?

Once a patient is assessed as being at risk of wandering, staff should be able to target them for intensive supervision.  These residents may be given a colored wristband or a gown of a special color.  Their beds and rooms should be located to allow for easy observation, away from doors, stairs and elevators.  Their environments should be free of stresses that can trigger wandering, such as excessive noise or glaring lights. Physical restraints, which increase agitation, should be avoided.

Protocols for Lost Residents

In nursing homes, incidences of lost or wandering residents are most often due to inadequate staffing, poor building design, and inadequate precautions such as alarm systems.  Because wandering residents must be found swiftly to avoid injury or death, nursing homes must have a rapid and efficient response system.  Staff should be fully trained in search procedures and these protocols should be routinely tested.  If the resident is not found within 30 minutes to 2 hours, nursing homes should contact local law enforcement agencies and coordinate search efforts.

For people with dementia, it’s a dangerous world out there. If your loved one suffered harm by wandering from a nursing home, consult a knowledgeable Nursing Home Neglect attorney to see if proper prevention and safety procedures were in place and correctly followed.