The National Institute for Elopement Prevention and Resolution identifies elopement as a patient leaving a facility without proper supervision. He or she may be physically or cognitively impaired, increasing their risk for harm in leaving the watchful eye of medically trained professionals. The Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiver Center noted that 6 in 10 patients with dementia will wander.
Can technology help medical professionals minimize the risk of elopement?
Homecare Magazine noted that one option available to care givers includes a mat that emits a wireless alert at a low volume when an individual steps on it. The article highlighted that these mats do not emit loud noises, a benefit, as it can agitate dementia patients.
Medscape reported that some patient facilities have given their care givers four-digit codes for the doors to minimize the chance that patients can walk away. However, with medical students working alongside care givers, it can be challenging.
"You can't prevent all elopements in a therapeutic environment. Elopement is probably a bigger problem than most people understand because we only tend to hear about the ones with really negative outcomes," David Meek BSN told Medscape.
"'You can't prevent all elopements in a therapeutic environment.'"
Some of the most effective tactics for working with patients who may elope are surprisingly low-tech, Meek mentioned. The key could be to provide an individual patient assessment in an attempt to discover the triggers that lead to elopement.
"An active exit-seeker needs more intervention and attention. They are the most difficult and the ones who tend to get out or elope, because they are actively looking to get out," he said.
Other tips to manage elopement
There are other tips the Alzheimer's Caregiver Center provide to help patients who may elope. The site focuses on creating a calming, safe environment for patients as well as providing distraction. Creating a daily plan – complete with exercise to tire patients out and reading to relax them – can help to keep them occupied and provide structure.
Patients who try to elope may also suffer from sundowning. This is common in individuals with Alzheimer's, and can lead to patients not cooperating, showing anxiety and panicking. The increase in anxiety could lead to elopement. Planning an activity or having patients listening to music to calm them can minimize the risk of leaving.
In addition, if care givers realize that patients are feeling agitated, reassuring them they are safe can help. Home care givers are essential assets when working with patients who may elope, as they can help keep individuals safe. However, they need the tools to do so. The class Elopement Prevention: 10 Strategies for Preventing Wandering and Elopement, led by Dr. Keith Savell, can prepare care givers working with dementia patients as well as those with cognitive impairments. This class will give care givers the tools to identify different factors that could lead to unsafe wandering. To learn more, reach out to Mariposa Training today.