Preventing wandering and elopement in nursing homes

There are many different challenges when taking care of elderly patients in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Ensuring
residents are well-cared for and happy is what every facility strives to achieve. One key piece of this is making sure all residents are safe. For elderly residents with dementia or other issues that make them prone to wandering, a top safety focus is preventing elopement.

While it’s not typically a safety issue if residents leave their rooms to wander the facility, it can be very dangerous if they leave the building with no supervision. Many times, these incidents lead to tragedy. A resident may get locked outside in extreme weather and staff members don’t realize it until it’s too late. Or the building may be located on a busy road or near a highway or other hazards. Many of these residents are unsteady on their feet and may simply fall and injure themselves. Facilities caring for this population must create plans to prevent wandering and elopement from the building.

Tips for preventing elopement

  • Develop individualized plans for any resident with wandering tendencies.
  • Ensure the facility always has enough staff members to monitor all residents.
  • Install door alarms on all exterior doors and train staff members never to ignore alarms.
  • If possible, install a video monitoring system at all exterior doors which can be monitored from a central location.
  • Develop a system of regular bed/room checks and make sure staff members are following the system, regardless of the time of day or night. This system should be tracked and documented daily.
  • Implement a program for documenting any wandering incidents, plans to prevent elopement, and specific steps taken for each resident who needs this.

Hopefully by taking these steps, facilities can reduce or prevent dangerous elopements and keep their residents safe and healthy.

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