CHICAGO, IL – Approximately 44 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia (Alzheimer’s News Today). Nursing home residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia may struggle to recall memories, and accurately interpret the world around them. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia may become confused easily and even combative with other residents and nursing home staff. If your loved one suffers from dementia and is living in a nursing home, it’s important to understand some of the unique issues he or she may face while living in a nursing home.
Wandering and Elopement
Nursing home residents who suffer from cognitive impairment due to dementia or a related illness are at a high risk of wandering and elopement. A confused resident may wander into dangerous parts of the facility and be seriously hurt.
Four patterns of wandering as described by Myra A. Aud, PhD, RN to Sage Publications is described as:
- Direct Travel: movement from one area to another without diversion.
- Random Travel: roundabout or haphazard movement to many locations within an area without interruption.
- Pacing: a repetitive movement that involves walking back and forth in a limited area.
- Lapping: a repetitive movement that involves following a circular path around a larger area.
Safety issues related to wandering include both falls and wandering away (elopement). In long-term care settings, wandering interferes with caregiving activities. For example, if a resident who tends to wander infringes on territorial spaces of other residents, this may provoke a personal conflict.
Elopement is the act of wandering away from a safe residence, which is extremely dangerous for those who suffer from a cognitive impairment. An estimated 60 percent of residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will wander away at least once.
Wandering is not only dangerous, but is difficult to predict where a resident could go next. All cognitively impaired long-term care facility residents that are cognitively impaired are presumed to be at-risk for wandering, even if they have no past history of doing so. Although some residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia may inadvertently wander away from a safe area by following staff and visitors as they leave while others actively test locked windows or doors and express a desire to leave.
Possible reasons for wandering include, but are not limited to:
- A desire for variety such as leaving a confined area for the setting viewed through windows and doors.
- A desire to go home or to work.
- A desire to leave the current environment and its stresses.
Wandering and elopement can result in a resident being seriously harmed or even deadly.
Physical Abuse and Sexual Abuse
Nursing homes should be a safe place for the elderly community. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some nursing home residents are victims of physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse. Residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are more vulnerable to this type of malicious treatment. Perpetrators may target these residents knowing they will likely struggle to report the abuse and could possibly continue to abuse this resident if they think no one may believe them.
Common people who can commit sexual abuse in nursing home facilities:
- Nurses, aides, or other staff members.
- Criminals who invade the facility.
- Fellow residents.
Signs of sexual abuse may include:
- Physical signs of abuse, such as bruising or blood-stained bedding.
- Elderly person contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
- Displaying fear towards a particular caregiver or resident at their long-term care facility.
- Newly developed depression or anxiety.
- Withdrawal from normal activities.
Sexual abuse in nursing homes is often underreported and is due to the social stigma behind sexual assault, or fear or retribution by the perpetrator. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), there were 20,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes over the past 20 years. On average, about three people a day in nursing homes are sexually abused.
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care mentions female nursing home residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia are more likely to be sexually abused. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “1 in 5 women have been either raped or suffered an attempted rape, compared to 1 out of 38 men.”
Most residents in long-term care facilities often rely on one or more prescription medications. They may not remember if they took their medication or not on any given day. Medication mistakes often go unnoticed and residents who suffer from cognitive impairments are at high-risk for missed medications, mixed-up medications, incorrect administration techniques, and other medication mistakes.
Contact a Cook County Nursing Home Injury Lawyer
Nursing home staff are required to provide residents with the standard of care and should take precautions to ensure that residents suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are safe. If your loved one suffered from nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, you may be able to hold the facility responsible and recover damages through a nursing home injury claim. Contact one of our experienced nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect attorney’s today for a free consultation at (312) 384-1920 or visit our website for more information.