What Is Considered Wandering?
Wandering is a common occurrence, ranging from 11 percent to 60 percent, in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Notably, individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s or depression are at the highest risk for wandering and elopement.
If your loved one suffers from one of these conditions, do not be afraid to ask the nursing home staff what the plan is to prevent elopement and any injuries that may occur because of it.
Make sure you ask this before your loved one moves in, as 45 percent of successful elopements occur within 48 hours of admittance. If the staff has no plan in place, this is likely the sign of understaffing or lack of training, both of which cause a large percentage of nursing home abuse lawsuits.
What Is Elopement and How Does It Differ From Wandering?
Elopement occurs when a resident exits a nursing home facility without approval or leave. Wandering is a culmination of behaviors that appear like aimless movement.
Wandering, however, is anything but aimless. Often, elderly individuals who wander feel a pull to go to a specific place or find a specific object, and will usually go to that place or search for that object on a persistent basis.
The issue with wandering and elopement is that they can lead to significant injuries from falls, including fractures and broken bones. They can also lead to missed medication or the use of unnecessary medication on the part of impatient or undertrained staff. The best way to avoid the consequences of elopement is to take steps to prevent wandering.
What Are the Signs of Imminent Elopement?
Eighty percent of nursing home residents who wander persistently successfully elope from their residence. The Healthcare Association of New York published a resource manual that provides a comprehensive way to assess whether an elderly individual is at risk for elopement.
Some signs that elopement may be imminent include that the resident is:
- Unhappy about being in the nursing home
- Restless or agitated for an unknown reason
- Walking to the same place several times
- Searching for a missing item or person
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