Should the Windows of a Senior Assisted Living Facility Be Secured?

When an individual places a parent or loved one in the care of a nursing home or assisted living facility, they often do so to ensure their safety. This can be especially true for elderly individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s, who often cannot appreciate danger. For those suffering from such mental incapacities, it is critical to protect them from wandering, elopement, and escape, which can pose life-threatening dangers.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in ten individuals living with dementia will wander at least once, but many do so repeatedly, placing them at an over 200% increased risk of fractures.[1] When a loved one wanders from a nursing home or assisted living facility, a family can be left feeling helpless and disappointed in the standard of care being administered. While this should never happen, it is a common occurrence when facilities fail to take proper precautions, such as by securing windows and using alarms to alert staff when an individual attempts to enter a restricted area or leave a facility.

If your parent or loved one wandered away from a nursing home or assisted-living facility, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to learn how we can tenaciously fight for accountability and to protect the best interests of your loved one. Our experienced nursing home elopement attorneys represent victims and their families on a contingency-fee basis, meaning we are only entitled to a fee if we obtain compensation.

What is Nursing Home Wandering and Elopement?

If an individual with a cognitive disorder, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, is left alone or improperly secured, they may escape from the view of care providers, placing them at an increased risk of injury. If a nursing home resident gets lost on the grounds of a nursing home or assisted living facility, this is referred to as wandering. Conversely, if the individual departs from the property altogether, this is known as elopement.

Both wandering and elopement can pose serious risks, as it is often difficult to locate residents who have left a nursing home because it is unclear where they may be headed. When this occurs, elderly patients have a significantly increased chance of suffering debilitating falls, injuries, heatstroke, frostbite, or even death.

What Are the Warning Signs Indicating A Resident Might Leave A Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility?

Residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s are automatically at an increased risk for wandering and elopement. The following are additional warning signs that could indicate an individual is likely to escape from a care facility:

  • New Resident Status. Most wandering or escape attempts occur within 48 hours of admission.
  • Announcements. Residents will often announce: “I need to go home” or “I need to take care of my dog” before attempting to leave.
  • Agitation.
  • Restlessness.
  • Unsettled Standing.
  • Searching.
  • Disorientation with Surroundings.

Do Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities Have a Duty to Lock Windows and Secure Doors to Prevent Residents from Wandering, Eloping, or Escaping? 

Nursing homes, assisted-living communities, and other long-term care facilities have a duty to ensure that proper controls and action plans are in place to guarantee the safety of all residents. These duties can include:

  • Conducting an initial, thorough assessment to determine the risk of wandering or eloping;
  • Creating a comprehensive care plan setting forth interventions to minimize the risk of wandering for “at risk” individuals, including securing windows, doors, and other exit points;
  • Providing a safe atmosphere by providing a physical environment that supports safe walking, exploration, stimulation, and rest;
  • Utilizing technology, such as alarms on doors, windows, and stairwells, keypad entry, and video cameras, to notify staff if an individual enters a restricted area; and
  • Establishing a missing-person protocol and engaging in routine drills to practice the plan.

When a nursing home fails to provide a safe environment, it is highly likely that it will be found to have been negligent if a high-risk individual simply walks out of the facility.

What Can I Do If My Loved One Was Injured After Wandering from a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes have a duty to provide a safe and secure environment for residents and their families by conducting thorough assessments and taking preventive measures, such as ensuring windows, doors, and other exit points are properly secured. When a facility fails to do so and trust is broken, you could have recourse.

There is never an excuse as to why an individual should ever walk out of a nursing home unnoticed. Families who have experienced such an incident deserve answers. In cases where a loved one was injured or died, they also deserve justice and maximum compensation. For decades, the experienced Michigan nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Olsman MacKenzie Peacock and Wallace have tenaciously fought for residents and their families, seeking to hold nursing homes of all sizes, ranging from small individual facilities to large corporations, accountable for neglecting their duty of care.

If your loved one wandered or escaped from a nursing home, assisted-living community, or another long-term care facility, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation to learn about your rights and the legal options available for seeking accountability and justice.

[1] Wandering, Alzheimer’s Association,