Understanding Wandering and Absconding

Daisy Slavkova, General Manager at Loveday Kensington was recently interviewed by US News & World Report, giving her expert insight about wandering and absconding.

Her extensive experience in dementia care provides a deep understanding of these behaviours, which are common among individuals living with cognitive impairments. Below, Daisy explains the nuances of wandering and absconding, the risks they pose, and the measures that can be implemented to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents. She also discusses the importance of person-centered care, effective monitoring, and family collaboration in managing these behaviours. Daisy elaborates on these critical topics, offering valuable advice and best practices for carers and loved ones.

Walking with Purpose

Wandering, or "walking with purpose" as we refer to it, is a common behaviour among individuals living with dementia. It can be distressing for both the individual and their loved ones. Wandering involves residents moving about within the facility, often driven by an unmet need or restlessness. In contrast, absconding is a more serious issue where residents leave the facility unsupervised, posing significant safety risks. Both behaviours require vigilant monitoring and intervention to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the individual. At Loveday, our advanced security systems and strict safety protocols are designed to prevent residents from leaving the residence unaccompanied, thereby reducing the risk of absconding.

Fatal Absconding

Fatal absconding occurs when a resident leaves the care home unsupervised and encounters life-threatening danger, leading to death. Whilst very uncommon, this tragic outcome underscores the necessity for robust safety measures, comprehensive risk assessments and constant supervision to prevent such incidents and protect vulnerable residents.

Causes and Risk Factors of Wandering and Absconding

Although it may appear that a person living with dementia is walking aimlessly, there is usually an underlying reason for their movement. They might be trying to alleviate pain, escape an uncomfortable environment, find a misplaced item, or simply wanting to expend excess energy. It's essential for families to understand that individuals with cognitive impairments never walk without a reason, even if they cannot articulate it. Factors such as cognitive decline, boredom and unmet needs can all contribute to wandering and absconding, with those at higher risk requiring more intensive monitoring and personalised care.

Regulations and Best Practices to Prevent Wandering and Absconding

Senior living facilities, especially those specialising in memory care, implement several regulations and best practices to prevent wandering and absconding. At Loveday, we develop person-centered care plans that begin from preadmission and are continually updated with daily observations of behaviours and triggers. All our staff members are trained in dementia care to recognise and address signs of distress. For example, one resident who frequently walked up and down the corridor at specific times was found to be reenacting a routine from her past as a young mother. By understanding her history, we were able to reassure her effectively.

Best practices include:

Meeting Individual Needs

Preventing restlessness can be achieved through regularly checking if residents are hungry, need to use the toilet, are bored or wanting to expend energy


Providing meaningful activities based on the individuals interests and life stories can help reduce boredom and the urge to wander


Simple comforts like a soft blanket or sensory item can sometimes provide the needed reassurance.

Our high staff-to-Member ratio at Loveday ensures personalised attention, and our buildings are secured with door alarms, coded access and security passes. We conduct thorough risk assessments and collaborate with families to create and implement effective safety protocols to meet the needs of all.

Reporting and Tracking Absconding

We use a person-centered care planning digital system at Loveday to report and monitor any incidents. This system helps us identify patterns and behaviours related to certain events. Our team use handheld devices to document challenging behaviours, which inform the creation of personalised care plans. When necessary, restrictive measures are applied in accordance with the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards procedure to ensure safety while minimising risk.

Responding to Absconding

If a loved one absconds, it’s important to contact your local police immediately. In cases of immediate concern for their welfare, call emergency services without delay.

Additional Insights on Wandering and Absconding

Managing wandering and absconding effectively requires comprehensive education and training for all team members and ensuring that the environment is secure. Monitoring changes in behaviour is crucial, as even individuals without cognitive impairments can become confused due to infections or other health issues. At Loveday, we have stringent policies and protocols implemented, which are designed to minimise these risks and provide the highest level of care and safety for our Members.

By understanding and addressing the reasons behind wandering and absconding, and implementing proactive measures, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for those living with dementia.

Read the full article in US News and World Report:


Published: 19th of June 2024 by Loveday & Co

Tagged: Dementia, Medical Professionals, Loveday

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