The North American Nursing Diagnosis Association (NANDA) defines wandering as “meandering, aimless or repetitive locomotion that exposes the individual to harm; frequently incongruent with boundaries, limits, or obstacles.” In assisted living environments, wandering most often occurs in individuals having cognitive deficiencies or impairment such as dementia, alzheimer’s disease, or autism.

Generally, the resident who wanders remains within the confines of the facility in which he or she resides but, even so, they may wander into other residents’ rooms which may lead to altercations or other conflict, stairwells and other restricted areas such as kitchens or chemical storage closets which can lead to serious injury or death. It is the facility’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all residents. Facilities are required to perform a thorough assessment of each potential resident prior to accepting the responsibility for his or her care. A patient’s potential to wander should be noted in the care plan.

Individuals having a propensity to wander require closer supervision than do other residents. If your loved one has been injured after having been allowed to wander, or if your loved one has been injured by another resident who has been allowed to roam the facility unsupervised, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hughey Law Firm.


A patient who wanders is at risk of elopement, which is defined as “the act of leaving a safe area unsupervised and unnoticed,” thereby placing themselves in harm’s way. While wandering is serious, elopement is even more so. Elopement can have tragic, often fatal results. All too often residents who elope become the victims of hit-and-run automobile accidents, serious falls, assaults, or injuries from exposure such as frostbite which can lead to amputations.

Elopement is a life-threatening event and occurs not only in nursing homes but in group homes, assisted living facilities, adult daycares, and other occupational facilities. Even children elope from childcare facilities.

Facilities have an obligation to account for the whereabouts of each resident at all times. They are further required to document this on a regular schedule. Often, this documentation is found to have been altered or even fabricated in elopement cases. Regrettably, criminal charges are seldom brought against the facility or personnel in these cases.

We hope you never have to live through the experience of an elopement, but if a loved one is injured — or worse — due to having been allowed to elope, please contact us today. We will be a fierce advocate for you and your loved one. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources to prosecute your case thoroughly and effectively.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation. We do not charge attorney fees or costs unless we help you recover money for your claim. A personal injury lawyer from our team at Hughey Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina is ready to help you seek justice for your loved one.

*Fees calculated before expenses.