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Caregiver Training Blog

Senior Elopement - Not a Walk in the Park!

Topics: Stress, Alzheimer's

wandering and elopementThe headline read “Lost elderly man found disoriented 180 miles from home.” This type of occurrence is becoming all too familiar as our population ages and has more risk factors associated with different types of dementia which causes cognitive decline. Traditionally the very word elopement conjured up romantic images of a couple running off to some far-away place to marry secretly without letting family or friends in on their plans. Unfortunately, in today’s aging society elopement and wandering are often common behaviors exhibited when the disease process impairs judgment; thereby putting their safety and well-being much more at risk.

So what causes someone to wander off or elope?  According to the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) some of the factors identified that put individuals at risk for wandering and elopement include:

“… memory and recall deficits, poor visuo-spatial ability, disorientation, and expressive language deficits. Those who suffer from dementia experience the severe anxiety that is associated with not knowing where they are, what they are supposed to be doing, who the people are around them and perhaps not even their own name.”

Whether a person who wanders or elopes is being cared for in their home or a care provider facility, the anxiety for the caregiver can be profound especially when monitoring the person consumes an already stressful situation. Over the years with the prevalence of the disease and the increase in elderly elopement there has been a development of many new types of products and technologies to address the issue. Some of these include wireless alarms with motion sensors that detect movement and activate the pager to inform the caregiver once the alarm has been activated as well as tracking devices in a shoe with a GPS.

While new and innovative technology can be very helpful, one of the most important aspects, especially in long term care facilities, is training in recognizing the realities of wandering and learning how to prevent elopement.  It is essential that care facilities understand how elopement not only jeopardizes a residents’ safety, but can also have an effect on family trust as well as cause legal implications for the facility.

mmLearn.org is committed to providing the latest quality training and support for caregivers of older adults.  mmLearn.org offers CEUs for Nurses, Social Workers, Hospice Administrators and Long Term Care Administrators. This training Elopement - What Every Nurse in Long Term Care Needs to Know! is essential for all long term care employees or anyone caring for older adults who are at risk for these behaviors.