Elopement: Leave Your Risk at the Door

It’s July 19, the weather is warm, and the sun is shining. Your residents are participating in activities and seem to be enjoying the day. Suddenly, you hear a door alarm. Your team responds to the alarm and does not find any residents outside the perimeter of the facility. A head count is completed and Mrs. Smith is found to be missing. You initiate your facility’s elopement protocol and work feverously to find her. 

Elopement can be a facility’s worst nightmare. The acute response of searching for and finding the resident, assessing for potential injuries, and ensuring immediate safety can be very taxing on the facility staff and the resident’s family.  The legal risk of potential family lawsuit and regulatory risk of citation for immediate jeopardy can trigger significate ramifications for your facility.  Prevention of elopements is your facility’s best defense.  

Review your processes for resident assessment. Residents’ risk for elopement should be assessed as soon as possible on admission. Initiate elopement care planning in the baseline care plan. Implement person-centered interventions to address elopement risk.  Act upon provider orders. Ensure that documentation is accurate and timely to reflect all assessments, care planning, and interventions. 

Evaluate your facility’s elopement prevention processes. Lead your IDT in periodically reviewing your elopement policy and procedures. Elopement books should be located at the front desk and every nurses’ station and should contain current photos of residents who are at risk.  Review staff education records to ensure that all facility staff are trained in elopement prevention. Conduct elopement drills at least twice a year to assess your staff’s response to door alarms.  

The summer months serve as a great reminder to review your facility’s elopement processes. Taking a proactive approach to preventing elopement will improve resident safety and decrease your facility’s overall risk.  Now is the time to leave your elopement risk at the door.