Ask the care expert: preparing for wanderers

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Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
What special preparations do you recommend regarding wanderers?

Be sure that you have up-to-date pictures. Take photos of any resident who wanders. Do it quarterly when you are doing the MDS. If the resident has her or his hair cut or colored differently from the last photo, take another one immediately. 

Take side-of-the-face views and straight-on views, glasses on and glasses off, dentures in and dentures out. Place the photos in the chart. 

Not that you ever want to use it, but get a scent sample. Here is how you do it: Purchase brand new socks in a plastic bag, not ones that have been on a rack unprotected. With gloves on, remove the socks from the bag, and place them on the resident's feet.

At the end of the day when taking off the socks, be sure to use gloves again. You do not want the scent from your hands on the socks. You are attempting to get a good scent sample for search dogs, in case an unfortunate event takes place.

After removing the socks with gloves on, put them in a doubled zipper lock freezer bag (freezer bags are a thicker ply than the regular non-freezer type bag). Prior to removing the socks from the feet, place the name on both bags, and the date you put the scented socks in the bags. Put them immediately in the bags. New scented socks should be done annually at an MDS updating if the wandering is still a problem.

For wanderers, also chart daily how the resident is dressed. Note the color of the shirt, shoes, and pants/dress/skirt. They usually don't remember a sweater or jacket when they go out to roam or wander, so if you have at least these items, you will be able to report what they are wearing.

Take a picture of the tread of their shoes/footwear and include it on the chart, too.