Technology Tools to Prevent Elderly Wandering

When nursing home residents get hurt as a result of inadequate wandering and elopement prevention safeguards, it may be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect, or even inadequate staffing.  Luckily, with advances in technology, there is a myriad of tools available to nursing homes to help curb unsafe wandering or elopement of residents.

Outdoor Technologies

  1. CCTV cameras – Cameras are very useful for outdoor monitoring of nursing home facility grounds.  Not only can they be used to watch for those residents who are prone to wandering or eloping, but they can also be used to monitor for intruders, and can enhance security. Cameras also enable a single staff member to monitor multiple areas at one time.
  2. Boundary fence lasers – Boundary fence lasers act as an alarm system and can notify staff if there is a breach of one of the fences.  Boundary fence lasers do not require an actual, physical fence to be useful.  They can simply be set up at the perimeter of the nursing home grounds, similar to a fence, and can monitor if a resident crosses the laser beam.

Indoor Technologies

  1. Alarm systems – Alarm systems can be set up to monitor doorways, stairwells, and unauthorized use of elevators inside the nursing home. For stairways that are not located in a stairwell, such as main stairways that are open to a room, proximity alarm systems can be used to indicate if a resident is getting too close to the stairs.  Such alarms can be audible or silent and should be programmed to notify nursing staff when triggered by a resident.
  2. Tracking bracelets – Many nursing homes employ the use of ankle or wrist alert bracelets for keeping track of where residents are.  Such bracelets are especially useful when used by residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Some bracelets use a radio transmitter, and each bracelet has a unique frequency so that emergency personnel can easily locate a particular transmitter attached to a resident. Other bracelets are designed to work in conjunction with sensors placed on nursing home exits and stairwell doors.  When a resident who is wearing a bracelet passes through the doorway, an alarm will sound, either audible or silent, alerting nursing staff that a resident is using a door they are not permitted to use.
  3. Safety locks – Safety locks can prevent residents from gaining access to areas of the nursing home facility that they should not be permitted to enter. For example, safety locks on doors that protect residents from cleaning products and other hazardous substances or objects are a good idea.  Residents should not have open, easy access to dangerous chemicals, sharp objects, electrical breakers, or other dangerous items.
  4. Restricted window openings – Special stoppers can be fastened onto window frames that allow the windows to be opened only a limited distance.  Restricting window openings allow residents to enjoy fresh air or a spring breeze, without granting them a means of escape out of the residence.

If you believe that inadequate staffing levels are affecting the quality of care in our state’s nursing homes, please call The Rooth Law Firm at (847) 869-9100 or reach out to our attorneys online.

Sources: Michelle Myers Glower, Videos, Bells and Whistles; Fall Risk or Injury Prevention?, RN Journal, Journal of Nursing.

P. E. Lesteret al., Wandering and Elopement in Nursing Homes, Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging, 2012;20(3):32-36.