In nursing homes, emotionally cued wandering refers to a reaction to events, situations, or the environment that causes elderly residents to wander in unsafe ways. This is a common behavior of nursing home residents with dementia and other cognitive impairments. When helping patients, caregivers should manage the residents in safe, healthy, and practical ways.
One side effect of dementia involves emotionally cued wandering. The term generally refers to the incidents in which vulnerable elderly adults wander unsupervised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published important facts about falls, including how elderly adults live at a higher risk of falling and suffering severe injuries from falls. Wandering increases those risks.
Cognitive Impairments and Emotionally Cued Wandering
Emotionally cued wandering can happen for a handful of reasons, as the reasons that trigger the wandering event differs from patient to patient. When dementia causes changes to the brain, it affects memory and thinking until individuals can no longer function independently on their own.
One report published by Harvard Health Letter says elderly adults suffering from Alzheimer’s may also show signs of:
- Short spans of attention
- Trouble speaking and expressing themselves with language
- An inability to rationalize or think clearly
Often, communication for people with dementia becomes limited difficult. When speaking with these individuals, you may find their behavior and actions strange. People with dementia may be trying to indicate unmet needs, frustrations, and more.
People at Risk for Emotionally Cued Wandering
Some nursing home residents remain at risk for emotionally cued wandering since they classify as people living with dementia. As a baseline, your loved one’s care plan should involve steps to prevent unsupervised wandering of any sort.
Ideally, you should attempt to address events or actions that may lead to avoid wandering before it even happens, when possible. For example, if you know that something is likely to trigger your loved one’s wandering, it can help to let nursing home staff know about it. Additionally, nursing home staff should have the training to recognize and report emotional symptoms in residents, like depression and agitation.
A few common causes for emotionally cued wandering in people with dementia may include:
- Visual or hearing impairments
- A lack of social interaction
- Care plans that do not meet the resident’s needs
A nursing home staff member must address any needs the resident has with good quality care in order to prevent wandering. Residents may become upset with an unmet need when they remain dependent on another person for care, which tempts them to address their needs themselves.
Addressing Emotionally Cued Wandering
Addressing emotionally cued wandering helps your loved one’s rights while also allowing them to maintain a sense of independence and pride. To do that efficiently, you may combine your care efforts with the resources of the nursing home and staff.
Some of the ways that caregivers may prevent emotional wandering include:
- Reduce waiting times: care routines should remain predictable, short, and simple. The shortened attention span of people with dementia can make waiting even a few minutes extremely agitating.
- Maintain supervision: proper supervision also helps nursing home residents who live at risk of wandering for any reason. Good supervision can reduce incidents of falling, unintentional wandering, and other harmful consequences.
- Individualize care: when caregivers see nursing home residents as individuals, their care will represent that. Understanding unique habits and making them a part of the nursing home care plan can help secure your loved one’s rights.
- Limit the use of restraints: restraints can upset your loved one, especially if they have an unmet need. Medication is one type of restraint, usually called a “chemical” restraint. A physical restraint can be something like wrist or waist restraints that prevent the patient from moving. Studies also show that antipsychotic medication has negative consequences for people with dementia.
- Limit stress and overstimulation: nursing home residents who wander may experience overstimulation or see something interesting outside of their usual confinements. Proactive nursing home care can include safety-locked doors and increased supervision of residents suffering from dementia.
The measures listed above do not include all practices for addressing residents with a tendency to wander. If you need more information on understanding nursing home laws and requirements, a lawyer may explain what options you have for protecting your loved one’s rights.
Our Lawyers May Protect Your Loved One’s Rights
If your loved one lives in a nursing home and experienced emotionally cued wandering, do not wait to take legal action. Nursing home abuse and neglect presents a serious problem, even when it proves accidental.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may protect your loved one’s rights if they suffered an injury due to wandering. For a free consultation, call us at (800) 842-6336.