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4 Common Causes of Wandering in Senior Living Communities

empty living room with a walker

Wandering is a serious security concern for senior living communities. Not only can it result in disorientation, injury, and more, but it could lead to elopement outside of the community or facility. Addressing the causes behind wandering can help reduce and prevent it. Here are a few common causes of wandering in senior living communities:

1. Wandering as a Self-Soothing Behavior

One of the most common causes of wandering is to self-soothe. Whether due to being bored, insomnia, being in pain, or having anxiety caused by not being engaged in something meaningful, wandering is a self-soothing behavior that can help relieve the discomfort caused by these things.

You can address these causes by proactively providing a variety of activities for residents. You can also make sure the community or facility has a safe, secure environment where residents can walk freely. If sleep issues or underlying conditions causing pain are suspected, these should be addressed accordingly.

An effective wander management system is an essential addition to these methods that can help manage wandering and give residents more freedom to move safely within designated areas of the facility.

2. Wandering Due to Being Lost

Residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia are prone to wandering in general. Around 60% of people living with dementia will wander at least once and many will go on to wander again.

They may forget how to get back to their room or forget where they are, which can lead them to feel like they are lost and then to wander to try and find familiarity. A circular floor plan, enclosed outdoor spaces, and more, all with easy pathways to follow and supervision, can help reduce wandering due to being lost.

There will likely still be instances where a resident may feel lost, but a nurse call system, wander management system, surveillance, and more can all work together to make sure someone is available to help them before they begin wandering.

3. Wandering Because of a Memory

Especially with people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, wandering can be caused by a sudden memory. Often, these memories are associated with a belief that they need to take care of something important outside of the facility, which leads to attempts to leave the facility.

Common examples include remembering a time where they needed to go to the store to get something they forgot, pick up something for someone’s birthday, feed a pet, check in or visit someone, trying to go home to a place they remember, and more.

In this case, there may not be much you can do to prevent the memory and urge to leave. However, you can have access control systems, a wander management system, video surveillance, and more in place to make sure residents cannot wander outside of the facility.

With emergency alerts through a nurse call system, you can make sure someone is able to intercept the resident, soothe them, and redirect them in a safe way.

4. Wandering in Search of a Quieter Environment

Wandering, and specifically, dementia-related wandering, can be caused by environmental triggers. A lot of activity, a noisy environment, constant foot traffic, being too hot or too cold, and more can create an irritating environment for a resident.

These environmental triggers can be particularly distracting and irritating to residents with dementia. It can even confuse them. In this case, they will wander off in search of a quieter, more relaxing place.

Resident assessments to determine wandering risk can help you identify residents that need to be placed in quieter environments, require more supervision, etc. This can help reduce environmental elements that could trigger wandering and ensure enough staff support to regularly monitor and check in.

Implement Systems to Reduce and Prevent Wandering

Wandering and elopement are some of the most common security concerns for assisted living facilities. These are just a few common causes of wandering in senior living communities. Addressing them to help manage wandering can also help prevent elopement in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior living communities.

Every facility and community will have its own specific set of needs. Because of this, the right mix of security products and methods will vary from facility to facility. Partnering with an experienced, reputable systems integrator can help make sure you have the right solution for your facility.

Contact Northeast Protection Partners at 800-736-1456 to schedule your free site assessment!