Many patients at risk for wandering, elopement

Wandering and elopement exist in all health care facilities, but long-term care facilities are at most risk because of the nature of the residents' conditions. Patients with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, autism, and others who cannot help themselves pose a high risk, no matter the setting.

Ten percent of all lawsuits involving long-term care facilities deal with elopements, according to statistics compiled by EmFinders, a Frisco, TX, company that works with law enforcement agencies and emergency responders across the country, as well as with the national 911 system to develop technology to quickly locate and rescue residents of hospitals and other types of facilities who have wandered and become lost. EmFinders is one of many products available to health care providers that can help providers prevent wandering and elopement, or to find patients after they leave.

EmFinders Founder and CEO Jim Nalley provides these other facts compiled by his company:

• Elopement is ranked number 11 on The Joint Commission list of Sentinel Events.

• Forty-five percent of elopements occur in the first 48 hours of admission to a facility.

• Elopements reflect the highest severity allegation involving the long-term care setting.

• CNA, the commercial insurance carrier based in Chicago, reports that elopement allegations have had an average total per claim of $393,650.

• Seventy percent of these lawsuits involve the death of a resident.

• Sixty percent of people with Alzheimer's disease will wander throughout the course of their disability, according to the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago.