Since my father just wandered from his nursing home, could it be that he’s placed inappropriately? | Chicago, Illinois Elder Law Attorney Anthony B. Ferraro

This depends on a number of factors. If he is considered a high-risk case for wandering and the provider is admittedly not suited to deal with it, then, yes, he may be incorrectly placed. But if this was a first or “one-time” incident and staff members say they can handle it from here on out, try to keep your father where he is. It’s good for him to remain in familiar surroundings. (If you think the facility simply is not living up to its care obligations or has been derelict in its duties, then looking for a different facility would be advised.)

Having a person with Alzheimer’s disease move can often be traumatic. What makes this predicament particularly difficult is you can’t typically determine if your father is going to wander until the first time it happens. A facility can be caught off-guard by this but then can recover by ramping up supervision to responsibly take care of him. The facility might, in fact, have a very good resident monitoring system available or in place but did not think to tell you about it because your father wasn’t yet deemed a wandering risk.

You can do a little research to help determine the next step. Speak with the facility’s activity director to learn whether your father takes part in activities. If he doesn’t or doesn’t take part much, ask the director to get him more involved in either group of individual activities. This will help keep his body active and his mind stimulated, diverting some of the energy that would be used for wandering. Exercise is a good way to spend excess energy

You also can look into engaging private duty or sitting services. Consult facility staff about having someone come in to spend one-on-one time with your father. This would still not guarantee against wandering (due to the nature of the disease) but it would be another proactive measure against it.

Have all caregivers track whether your father tries to leave the facility, and if staff members are able to prevent or counteract it. If they can’t prevent it, you might need to explore other options.

Also consider: Does your father seem anxious or extremely agitated? His doctor might be able to do something about this with an appropriate intervention. There is also the chance that your father may remain agitated enough to wander no matter where he is. Be sure to keep his doctor up to date on the situation.

For more information, go to our Alzheimer’s Resource Kit by clicking here.