One of the worst things that can happen to a loved one, in a nursing home, is for that person to become lost. When elderly patients have dementia or Alzheimer’s, they are often not in control of their bodily processes, they can’t think rationally, and they may even see or hear things that aren’t there. When you get the dreaded phone call that your loved one has gone missing, you might feel helpless. Fortunately, there are some things you can do.
Coordinate With Staff
The first thing you need to do is coordinate with staff about your missing loved one. Don’t try looking for them without checking in with staff because there are often protocols at every facility for finding missing residents.
Unfortunately, it’s common occurrence. But, fortunately, it’s so common that protocols exist to handle it. If you suspect that the incident was caused by neglect or abuse, however, you should contact an attorney that handles these situations, such as Banville Law based in New York. Investigate the case to verify that there was, in fact, wrongdoing.
One of the best ways to prevent loss from occurring in the first place is to keep your loved one engaged and stimulated. Most nursing homes and long-term care facilities do provide games and activities for residents, but they don’t always require residents to participate.
And, even when games and activities are mandatory, they do not last all day long, so there’s downtime when activities aren’t happening. This is the time you have to worry about, because it’s the most likely time when your loved one may wander or try to escape (elope).
Most facilities are equipped with some kind of environmental protection and prevention system. Usually, this is in the form of alarms systems. Residents may be hooked up to monitors that will activate when the resident tries to stand up or get out of his or her chair.
Other systems are placed at entry and exit points. When the door is opened, an alarm sounds, alerting staff. Other times, environmental systems are more passive, like locking systems that are non-operable at the door. Residents simply cannot open the door without a key card or some other type of identification.
Other monitoring devices may also play a role in keeping your loved one safe. For example, a location bracelet, or some other device, may be worn or implanted to help monitor the individual’s location. These are sometimes controversial devices because of the concerns over the patient’s privacy. However, proponents of these devices argue that many patients in long-term care facilities have dementia and so they aren’t capable of thinking rationally about what they’re doing.
The monitoring device protects them.
By having scheduled activities, patients can be monitored in a more covert way and accounted for. If your loved one is not part of a group activity, consider getting them enrolled in one. This will increase the level of care they’re receiving.
It will also help prevent them from getting bored, frustrated, anxious, or scared – some of the leading causes for elopement.
GUEST BLOGGER: Laurence P. Banville is a lawyer with experience in dealing with nursing home abuse and neglect. He enjoys sharing his insights online and his articles mainly appear on elderly lifestyle related blogs.