Business and Non-Profit

Elopement and wandering

Caregivers must be vigilant about the issues of wandering and elopement. Social service organizations work hard to create safe environments for their residents and clients. Staff also must work hard to make sure no one wanders from the safe environment or elopes from the grounds completely. Below are some risk management tips and resources.

Prevention tips

  • Supervision is key to preventing wandering. Be sure to:
    • Monitor staff-to-resident/client ratio and comply with best practices and state regulations.
    • Schedule regular head counts.
    • Monitor all entrances and exits with cameras or alarms.
    • Use video cameras or motion sensors in areas surrounding the program area if possible.
    • Attach bracelets or other electronic tagging to the person in extreme cases.
  • Train staff to recognize signs and elopement tendencies. If you deal with residents/clients who have cognitive impairments, make a notation in their files about wandering or elopement tendencies. Once a person is recognized as a potential wanderer, he or she must have an individualized plan.
  • Make sure family members and guardians are aware of elopement issues and can be reached at all times.
  • Organize activities that will keep residents/clients engaged and willing to remain in the designated area.
  • Constant communication is important to spotting elopement tendencies as they surface.
  • Notify neighbors of this risk, so they know how to respond should they witness something.
  • Develop a sound elopement policy to allow for instant notification of local authorities and family/guardians.
  • Do not waste any time.

Potential hazards

  • Falling down stairs or balconies, tripping, and other building hazards
  • Wandering into a restricted area (such as a kitchen, chemical storage room, fireplace, etc.) or trespassing in some way
  • Hypothermia, sunburn, and other weather-related exposures
  • Parking lots, roads, and other vehicle exposures
  • Poor visibility at night
  • Being taken advantage of, mugged, or violated by a third party
  • Placing themselves in harms’ way, or becoming frightened, fatigued, or confused
  • Feeling threatened, chased, or not wishing to be found

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

National Guideline Clearinghouse

National Mental Health Information Center