All long-term care residents are at a risk for wandering. However, those with diseases that diminish cognitive abilities, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, are more likely to wander or elope. In the most dangerous cases, elopement has led to serious injury and death.
While statistics vary on how frequently patients wander, one 2006 study found that at least one in five residents with dementia will wander at least once. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners shared one case study in which a cognitively impaired woman wandered to the facility’s roof. No one noticed her absence for several hours. After a search was initiated, she was found suffering from severe hypothermia and passed away shortly after in the hospital.
This has significant implications for nursing home staff. Residents with dementia require extensive supervision, as patient safety is the nursing home’s main priority. This also encourages family members to assess a facility’s ability to safely care for their loved one before admitting them to a nursing home.