Ask the Care Expert about ... wandering residents

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Sherrie Dornberger, RN, CDONA, FACDONA, Executive Director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RN, CDONA, FACDONA, Executive Director, NADONA

Do you have any special recommendations for preparations pertaining to wanderers?

Some of these recommendations might sound defeatist or overly cautious, but it's better to be prepared than not in most every instance.

Chart daily how the resident is dressed. Note the color of of the pants/dress/skirt, shirt and shoes. Wanderers don't often remember to take a sweater or jacket, so if you have at least these base items, you will have a good start for relaying to others in case of elopement or a missing person.

Take a photo of the tread on their footwear and include this on the person's chart as well.

Speaking of photos, of course also have up-to-date facial shots of anyone at risk for wandering. Update them quarterly when you do the MDS. Take new photos immediately after a new haircut or coloring.

Make sure you have front- and side-view shots, with and without glasses, and with and without dentures. Keep them in the chart.

Also consider having a scent sample. To do this, take brand new socks that come in a plastic bag. While wearing gloves, open the bag and put the socks on the resident's feet. When taking them off later, be sure to use gloves again. You do not want your scent being transferred to the socks.

Put the removed socks in a doubled zipper-locked storage baggie. Freezer bags are thicker than standard ones and more useful. Put the resident's name on  both bags and date them.

New scented socks should be collected each year. Be sure to quickly transfer them from feet to baggies each time.

Consider all of the above steps to be extra “insurance.” Ideally, nobody ever elopes or needs the use of a tracking dog, but it's good to be overly cautious.