One of the challenging aspects of caring for seniors with dementia is the risk of elopement – a term used to describe when individuals with cognitive impairments wander or leave a supervised area without awareness of the potential dangers. Elopement can lead to severe consequences, including injuries, death, and increased stress for family members and caregivers.
To help you keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia safe, we’re sharing the risk factors behind elopement and wandering, reasons why seniors may elope, and how to prevent elopements from occurring.
What Is the Main Risk Factor for Wandering and Elopement?
There is not one set risk factor or reason for elopement. In fact, there are many. Some of the most common risk factors that you should be looking for in your loved one include:
Forgetfulness or Cognitive Impairment
Those who experience memory loss, confusion, or disorientation might be more prone to wandering and eloping. If your loved one has a cognitive impairment, including dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they may be more at risk of eloping, so be sure to keep a close eye on them and implement prevention measures if needed.
Limited Activity or Increased Restlessness
Seniors may wander due to restlessness or a desire for physical activity. If they begin to feel confined or isolated, they may also try to overcome barriers that prevent them from leaving.
A History of Wandering
Past cases of wandering may indicate a loved one will wander again. This requires vigilant monitoring and prevention.
Agitation and Anxiety
Feelings of agitation, anxiety, or stress can trigger elopement and wandering. This is because your loved one with memory loss may not be able to express their emotions verbally. They may then wander because of their discomfort.
There are also high-risk environments. Anywhere loud, chaotic, or stressful can provoke elopement. This is why you should try to create a calm, soothing environment for your loved one.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications may have side effects that impair judgment and increase restlessness. When your loved one starts a new medication, keep an eye out for signs they may be dealing with side effects.
If your loved one’s needs, such as hunger, thirst, or the need to use the bathroom, aren’t addressed, they may wander.
Lack of Supervision
Family members should ensure constant vigilance, especially when seniors are prone to wandering. Not having this supervision is a significant risk factor when it comes to elopement.
Elopement Risk Prevention
To prevent elopement, considering the techniques of various senior living and long-term care communities can be helpful. Many have elopement prevention plans in place to ensure cases of elopement remain at zero.
Some of the techniques they use to ensure residents don’t leave can help your loved one remain safe at home as well. Consider these:
Create a Structured Routine
Daily routines should consist of regular mealtimes, activity times, and rest periods. This consistency can help to reduce anxiety and restlessness, minimizing elopement risk.
Provide Social Engagement
Encourage activities that provide social engagement and promote mental stimulation. Those who feel connected and engaged are less likely to wander in search of companionship.
Create a Secure Environment
Make sure your loved one’s home is equipped with safety measures, including door and window locks, alarms, and a secure entrance and exit.
Maintain consistent supervision of your loved one. Be sure to monitor and check on their needs regularly so you can intervene in meeting their basic needs before wandering occurs.
Implement Identification Systems
Wearable bracelets and GPS devices can help track your loved one should they wander or elope.
Modify Their Environment
Reduce confusion and stress in their environment. Provide clear signage, create visual cues, and reduce clutter to make their home easier to navigate and more familiar.
Evaluate medication’s side effects. Keep an extra close eye on your loved one if their behavior begins to shift once starting a new medication. Talk to a health professional to adjust medication if needed.
Become as Educated as Possible
Seek out as much information as you can find about wandering and elopement. Share this with your family members and anyone who cares for your loved one. Memory care communities can also help through their support groups, where they provide expert insight and education.
Discover High-Quality Care at Quartet
Memory Care at Quartet Senior Living provides a safe, engaging environment for those with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. From high-quality, specialized support to an enriching environment, we’re here for your loved one.
Contact us to learn more about Quartet’s Awakenings™ Program and how your loved one can thrive in Memory Care in our community. Give us a call today to schedule a tour.