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Why Do Some Nursing Home Residents Wander?

elderly wanderer

Understanding Why Nursing Home Residents Wander

1 in 10 Americans, older than 65, will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. These individuals will experience a drastic decline in mental abilities that make it difficult to complete daily activities most take for granted such as eating, bathing, socializing, or even the ability to remember their own name or address. A majority of dementia victims will require an intense amount of supervised care and physical assistance to go about these routines. More often than not, families will put their trust in a nursing home center to manage the progressive, non-curable disease that will continue to worsen their loved ones until death. For individuals with who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities with dementia and have no family to check-in or watch out for them, receiving the best care can be difficult due to the staff responsible for the growing number of abuse and neglect cases impacting nursing home residents today.

Wandering represents one of many behavioral problems occurring in people with the dementia. In fact, six out of 10 people with dementia will wander and aimlessly move about within the facility or grounds without regard of their personal safety. For a better understanding of this phenomena, The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) has identified several different reasons for wandering in nursing homes as well as the different types of wandering.

  1. Environmentally Cued Wandering

Environmentally cued wandering in nursing homes occurs when a patient responds to environmental stimuli, such as sitting when there is a chair. A hallway or path will cue the patient to wander. Staff must watch these patients closely when there is an environmental factor that may trigger the wandering.

  1. Recreational Wandering

A patient’s need or desire for more exercise can generate a case of recreational walking. This is more easily curable by staff. Allowing a patient ampler time or means to exercise, explore, and interact will offset mental reasons that a patient will engage in recreational wandering.

  1. Agitated Purposeful Wandering

Patients’ reasons for engaging in agitated purposeful wandering may vary. However, this is a dangerous type of wandering in nursing homes. As the name implies, patients have a purpose for this type of wandering, and may be agitated about whatever that reason is. The reason can be real or imagined, but the patient’s emotional state is no less disrupted when the threat is imagined. When confronted, patients may respond aggressively towards staff, and be unwilling to cooperate or return to safe areas of the nursing home. If the issue is unresolved, recurring incidents of wandering may occur.

  1. Fantasy or Reminiscent Wandering

Fantasy wandering occurs when the patient is unaware of real surroundings and proceeds to wander according to an imagined environment. A common scenario for this type of wandering is reminiscent wandering, when a patient imagines past surroundings and responds to them. This is a difficult type of wandering to confront, as patients may be unable to grasp the situation and understand the actual surroundings.

  1. Elopement

The most dangerous type of wandering occurs when a patient attempts to completely leave the nursing home and wander outside. Patients are often hurt or killed during this type of wandering. This type of wandering can stem from any of the other types of wandering. Staff must keep a close eye on patients that have attempted elopement, as recurrences are common.

– The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, 2017

Wandering and elopement among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it, starting with a fully trained, equipped and staffed care department.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

Our Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled numerous cases in which loved ones have wandered and been injured or found deceased because of an elopement event. If you have a family member with dementia who was neglected, please contact our Chicago nursing home attorneys to discuss your situation and let us help you.

Our consultations are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. Click here to fill out an online request form or call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872.