When Dementia Patients Wander [infographic]

Madeleine Jones
February 26, 2018

Dementia patients who wander away from nursing homes face significant injury and fatality risks due to external dangers and cognitive impairments. Elopement, when a dementia patient wanders out of a home or nursing facility and does not return, is considered the most dangerous type of wandering with a higher risk of serious injuries and death. If you or a family member was seriously injured in an accident, or you lost a loved one, call a Las Vegas personal injury attorney at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.

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When Dementia Patients Wander

Dementia Patients Who Wander

It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of all dementia patients in homes and senior living communities, and up to 31 percent of dementia patients in nursing homes wander. Although keeping accurate statistics on the number of dementia patients that wander off from nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other types of senior living communities each year is difficult, The Alzheimer’s Association reports that at least six in 10 dementia patients will wander at some point. According to New York University’s Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, approximately 35,000 Alzheimer’s patients wander away from their homes or nursing home facilities every year in the U.S.

In addition to cognitive impairment, wandering and elopement may also be related to physical discomfort such as joint and muscle pain, or emotional discomfort such as the lack of mental stimulation and social interactions. Studies show certain risk factors that may increase wandering tendencies in dementia patients:

  • Male patients
  • Older age groups
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Poor sleep patterns and insomnia
  • Prior socially active lifestyles

Dementia patients who elope are different than those who simply wander, because they make intentional and often repeated attempts to leave the premises. Studies show that 72 percent of patients who successfully elope, make future attempts.

To prevent dangerous elopements, nursing home facilities should quickly identify patients who present elopement risks. A risk assessment should be completed within 72 hours after resident admission and updated on a quarterly basis. Some health conditions that increase the potential for elopement dangers include Alzheimer’s and dementia; anxiety disorders; schizophrenia; manic depression; episodes of hallucinations and delusions; and a history of wandering. A secured Alzheimer’s or Memory Care Unit is recommended for nursing home residents and/or long-term care patients who present a high risk for wandering and elopement.