Additional Best Practices for Wandering Patients in Assisted Living Facilities: Part II
In our last article we discussed some of the safety precautions assisted living facilities should implement for patients who are at risk of wandering. Not only does having strong best practices and risk management strategies help to elevate patient care and prevent accidents but it also assists in keeping the facility’s insurance program competitively priced with fewer claims. In this article, we discuss several additional steps a nursing staff at an assisted living facility can take to keep wandering patients safe.
For patients with dementia and at risk of wandering, it’s wise for the nursing staff to meet with family members and prior caregivers to gain insight into underlying and specific causes for a specific individual’s wandering habits. In some cases, dementia patients may be searching for loved ones while others may believe that they are still employed and must get back to work. Wandering patients may also believe they’re on their way to carry out a specific task or responsibility, such as taking care of a child. Some are looking to go home even though they may know that he or she is at home in the assisted living facility. With this insight, the nursing staff can adopt a more personal approach to the patient’s needs.
In addition, regardless of whether or not the root causes of a patient’s wandering can be determined, there are strategies that the staff can use to reduce risk. First and foremost, a patient should have a sense of community and belonging in the assisted living facility, and that he or she feels safe and at ease. Room changes can cause panic and confusion in dementia patients, so they should be kept to an absolute minimum and implemented only when there are no other options. Also, the use of bright lighting and loud music should be avoided, as these can cause a wandering-prone patient to go off in search of a more suitable environment.
Moreover, patients should spend time outside, supervised and with an established walking path that loops safely within the facility’s grounds. Daily exercise and allowing the patient to move around have both been shown to diminish the risk of wandering.
It’s also important to have protocols in place in the event a patient does wander off. In addition to working with local residents and police to locate patients who have wandered off, it’s wise that the facility have on hand a current photograph of the patient. They should also keep a patient’s articles of clothing or other personal items in a protected plastic bag so that canine search teams can quickly and easily pick up the patient’s scent. Facility’s managers and administrators need to also regularly test patient search protocols to ensure effectiveness, and to ensure checks and balances exist so that when a patient is gone missing it is immediately noted.
There are also electronic technologies that discourage patient wandering. For example, specialized pressure pads and sensors can be installed on patients’ beds and chairs to detect when they get up. Radio frequency transmitters and electronic tags can also be used to determine a patient’s distance from the facility and to broadcast his or her location if he or she wanders away or becomes lost inside the facility.
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing comprehensive assisted living insurance solutions including risk management strategies to help prevent accidents and losses. We can help you secure a sound program for your insureds. Please give us a call at: 877.226.1027.
Source: Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare