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Your Residents Would Never Wander? Don’t Be Too Sure!

By brian barrick
May 15, 2013

Wandering goes hand in hand with dementia and is more common in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease presenting a safety hazard for the resident as well as liability for the facility.   There are ways to help prevent wandering in your assisted living facility, but first, wandering and its causes must be identified and understood so that the measures you take are effective.
Wandering may be caused by some of the pharmaceuticals used to treat the elderly, but more often than not wandering is a response to a need the resident has, or believes he has.  The need for toileting, a drink or something to eat are the most common needs.  A decline in verbal communication may prompt a resident to wander as he seeks out social interaction.  A resident who wanders is seeking out something even though they may not recall what it is.  Wandering may also be a response to a lifelong habit, such as meeting a friend, going to work or letting the dog out.  Sometimes wandering is an escape for a resident as he attempts to seek out a more familiar setting, a quieter environment or to avoid the anxiety he feels because of his memory loss.  While there is no 100% sure fire way to help prevent wandering in your assisted living facility, addressing some of these issues listed can bring you closer to understanding why your resident wanders and what you can do about it.
The more verbal your resident is, the easier it will be to determine the trigger for his wandering.  He can answer simple yes/no questions (Do you need the bathroom?  Are you hungry?), or he may be able to tell you outright where he is going (I have to get to work.)  Check the medications the resident receives.  Do they cause restlessness?  Is he having a medication side effect (stomach upset because of antibiotics) but can’t elaborate due to confusion or decreased verbalization?  Is the residents room quiet and conducive to sleep or does his roommate have the television on?  Know your residents personal history.  Did they work a night shift?  Were they always fearful at night?  Be alert as to when a resident wanders.  If it’s the same time every night, a lifelong habit may be the cause.
Discovering the trigger for your wandering resident can go a long way to help prevent wandering in your assisted living facility.

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