Winter Weather Heightens Wandering & Elopement Risks for Dementia Residents
The Illinois Alzheimer’s Association says wandering – in extreme circumstances also called eloping – represents one of many behavioral problems occurring in 6 out of 10 people living with Alzheimer’s across the state. And cold weather events and drops in temperatures during the winter months pose new dangers to nursing home residents who have the likelihood to move about their environment without regard to their safety.
Residents battling Alzheimer’s must be cared for in alternative ways than residents who do not present a known threat to wander. Care workers must:
- know how to assess a resident’s wandering risk and identify warning signs
- pay close attention to weather reports and warnings
- understand how door and window alarms and locks work
- keep exits to outdoor spaces closed off to individual residents
- carry a general sense of watchfulness over their patients
As cold weather arrives during the months of November, December and thru the Midwest’s late winter and early spring, family members can ensure their loved ones are prevented from wrongfully exiting a facility by reviewing wandering prevention plans with facility administrators, and help raise concerns on behalf of residents unable to protect themselves.
Preventing Elopement Scares with Dementia Residents
Residents with dementia hold the most significant cold weather risk related to an elopement, the most dangerous form of wandering. During a winter elopement event, dementia patients are so distracted by their disease symptoms that they become seriously injured or killed while fleeing. This is a severe type of wandering to confront, as dementia residents may be unable to understand environmental risks, and they are not dressed to stay warm against freezing temperatures. They can also become easily confused while navigating through unknown surroundings and put in harm’s way.
Skilled-nursing facilities should have a set of safety standards to follow that will identify dementia patients who are at risk to wander.
- Develop protocol for residents to stay inside during inclement weather events, such as the extreme cold or a heavy snowfall.
- Watch patients closely when there is an environmental factor (a window that may display snow falling) that may trigger a desire to exit.
- Allow a patient ample time to exercise, explore, and interact with others in hopes to offset triggers that may engage winter wandering.
When confronted, eloping patients may respond aggressively towards staff, and be unwilling to cooperate or return to safe areas of the nursing home, causing harm to themselves or others. Worse, if the issue is left unresolved, incidents of wandering may continue to occur as it is common for residents that have attempted elopement to flee again.
Was Your Loved One Was Found Wandering From An Illinois Nursing Home?
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If you suspect a wandering or elopement event triggered due to the negligence of an Illinois nursing home staff or owner, contact the attorneys of Levin & Perconti now at 1-877-374-1417 or by completing our online case evaluation form for a free consultation.