Dementia and Wandering

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Dementia, which is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in memory, behavior and thinking, causes many who suffer from it to lose the ability to perform their regular activities.

Elders are stricken with dementia far more than any other age group. In many cases, dementia is the reason an elder moves into a nursing home. Dementia is also often to blame for what is known as “elopement” or in layman’s terms, wandering. Elders with dementia may develop wandering tendencies, wherein due to cognitive impairment, they begin to wander around their nursing home unsupervised and without an escort.

wandering-300x169Wandering may lead to serious injury as the result of falling. In some cases wandering has even led to death, in cases where residents have wandered outside of their residential facility. Though rare, wandering is dangerous enough that lawmakers included provisions to protect against it in the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act. The law required that nursing homes must provide residents with adequate supervision in effort to prevent elderly patients from wandering. That means of course, that nursing homes must be properly staffed.

In order to determine whether the California nursing home an elder currently resides in, or a nursing home that an elder may be considering residing in, provides adequate staffing, meet with administrators to ask the following questions:

• How many of the staff members are awake during the night?
• Does the staff employ people who specialize in working with elders with dementia?
• What is the ratio of staff members to residents?
• Are staff members assigned to specific residents, or do all staff members work with all residents?
• What kind of ongoing education and training in dementia does the staff receive?
• How does the staff handle residents who wander?
• Who supervises the staff responsible for caring for elders with dementia? What are their qualifications?

In addition to asking these questions, you’ll certainly want to take a tour of the facility, and observe the other residents. Moreover, conduct a bit of research about the facility to check for violations, license suspensions, and complaints. Choosing to place an elder suffering from dementia into a California nursing home or skilled nursing facility is never an easy decision. However, you can safeguard your loved ones better by doing your research, asking a lot of questions and visiting the facility yourself.

If someone you know has been injured by wandering in a Southern California nursing home, report the injury immediately. You should also schedule a free consultation with a nursing home abuse attorney, who can explain your legal rights. Christopher C. Walton is a peer recognized, and legal industry honored San Diego, California based elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (866) 338-7079 or click here for a free and confidential consultation with an elder abuse attorney.