A few years ago, a resident of a secured wing of a retirement community in northern state escaped. Since it was winter, the temperatures were at or below freezing with snow. The caregiver on duty had fallen asleep and did not hear the alarm as he left. The nurses on the shift following the previous associate did apartment checks for the residents, and they discovered he was missing. They looked all around the community--inside and out--and found his tracks in the snow leading to a wooded area. The man was discovered wearing only thin pajamas, completely frozen. After the staff checked the alarm times, they realized the man was outside for nearly 6 hours! The caregiver, obviously, was terminated from her position. The family was called about the death of their loved one, and they were completely appalled with the situation--not to mention grief-stricken.
Education for communities, family members, caregivers, etc is vital. Support groups, seminars, and literature are great ways to alert all involved of ways to avoid awful and terrifying situations, like the above example. If a loved one is an elopement risk, I think we should educate families with regard to id bracelets. Most of these bracelets, I believe, are available through Alzheimer's Associations throughout the country free of charge. They are not beautiful, but they could definitely help if someone were to wander away from home. It says on the bracelet that the person wearing it is memory imparied. It also lists an 800 number on it to call if the person is lost. The agency called pulls up the information for that person, and they notify the family or loved ones of his or her whereabouts. It is an extremely helpful tool.
While in most communities there are alarm systems in place for wandering residents, I believe that it is imperative for automatic locking doors. I have been in communities where it is far too easy for wanderers to escape. I hope that in the future, it is mandatory for all dementia residents to wear tracking bracelets. I know it may seem like an invasion, but it would allow family members and caregivers to have peace of mind