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When nursing home residents go missing

Wandering and elopement are serious concerns for the families of some Illinois nursing home residents, particularly those who suffer from dementia. Are enough safety precautions in place to prevent elderly and disabled adults from going missing?

In April, the Chicago Tribune reported that a 64-year-old resident of Countryside Nursing Home in Dolton went missing on an outing to a Walmart in Homewood. The missing man was found the next night when he showed up, apparently unhurt, at a Chicago police station. While this wandering story had a relatively happy ending, nursing home residents are often highly vulnerable to serious injury when they are not properly supervised and cared for.

Why do people wander? How do they elude staff?

How can nursing homes allow residents to move around their facilities -- or even leave their premises -- without supervision? In most cases, the problem is inadequate staffing, corner cutting, poor training or poor management. Whether the problem is a door left unlocked, an incorrect headcount or a failure to properly staff an area, 100 percent of the responsibility lies with the nursing home.

Residents and patients with symptoms of dementia and mental illnesses need proper care and monitoring at all times. Not providing appropriate care is irresponsible and dangerous.

What families can do

No family should have to worry about their parent, grandparent or other relative being neglected in a nursing home or other care facility. Families whose loved ones have been injured due to nursing home negligence should seek legal advice and explore options for holding the negligent parties accountable.

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