Imagine your dad living in a nursing home. While he seems in fair shape physically, his memory is starting to go. You’ve noticed small things and you ask that the staff to watch him and be sure to check on him regularly.
You go to visit Dad. He’s not in his room. He’s not in the dining room, or anywhere you look. Frantically, you search the nursing home, but you can’t find him. It’s 22 degrees outside and snowing. The sun is setting. Where is Dad?
The difference between elopement and wandering
Wandering means that the nursing home resident is walking around somewhere inside the nursing home. Elopement means the nursing home resident has left the building. Sometimes older people are trying to escape. Sometimes they see something interesting outside and want a better look.
Older people with memory issues need to be kept safe. They need supervision. Staff needs to be trained to watch for both wandering and elopement. The facility is required to have some form of safety measure in place of they house people suffering from dementia or are a memory care facility.
Unfortunately, about one third of nursing home residents have wandered. Their stories are heartbreaking. Allowing a resident to leave a nursing home facility because a resident is unsupervised when they should be under watch and care is nursing home neglect.
Out the window you notice footprints in the new-fallen snow. You run outside and follow the footprints to a nearby wood. There is Dad. Shivering, he is in a thin T-shirt, jeans and his slippers. His face is flushed, his eyes are big. “Dad!” you say and rush to him. He embraces you. “I wanted to see the snow,” he says. “But I can’t figure out how to get home.”
You bring him back inside where it’s warm and get him a blanket cup of soup. Next, you report what happened to the nurse in charge. Then you schedule and appointment with the nursing home director or administrator. In Virginia the administrator must be licensed. Dad is safe this time, but imagine what would’ve happened had you not visited?