Preventing elderly individuals with dementia from running away

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You want your residential care centre to offer people a home that is safe, comfortable and open. But then, what to do with seniors who have a form of dementia and keep trying to run away? How should you deal with their runaway behaviour? And how can technology help to guarantee the resident’s safety, offer family and friends peace of mind, and ease the workload resting on your caregivers?

Why does a resident want to run away?

That’s the first question you need to answer, because it can give you a handle on how to reduce the runaway behaviour of the elderly. Naturally, no two people are identical. Moreover, the illness evolves unpredictably, as a result of which someone behaves perfectly normally one month and then suddenly runs away. When old people suffering from dementia do that all at once, they are often experiencing a sense of insecurity within themselves and/or their environment, which can be translated in (at least) the two following ways.

Firstly, elderly individuals with dementia can run away because they want to go somewhere. They’re looking for something or someone from the past. They want to get to their children and - often - their parents, because they’re looking for the safety and security these persons once offered them. A haven which, after their childhood, the elderly may never have known again.

Other old people with runaway behaviour and dementia might wish to get away from their current situation. They don’t feel comfortable where they are, even if they’re still living at home. So they run away - but often without a specific destination. They just want out of their present situation. Possibly they don’t dare to ask the people around them for things that would give them greater security, because they’re afraid of rejection.

How to deal with old people that run away?

Do the elderly with dementia run away because they, for example, wish to return to their parents (something one encounters quite often)? Then it is important that you, as caregiver, explore the reasons why. What does the person miss from his or her parents? Support, understanding, a refuge, consolation, human warmth ...? Then you can try to compensate that deficiency by giving the person a hug, offering a listening ear, like a mother or father figure ...

Does the resident want to get out of the situation? Then you must discover what is frustrating him or her today in the residential care centre. Why does this person experience the urge to flee the situation? Perhaps there are tensions in their wing? Is it too noisy ...?

What is making the situation so difficult for the resident that he or she wants to get away? And which of his or her wishes can you fulfil in order to overcome that feeling? Maybe a move to a different room would be enough, because things aren´t clicking with the current roommate?

Increase safety as well through technology

Naturally, however well you deal with old people suffering from dementia and runaway behaviour, you can never entirely prevent that behaviour. So what should you do when someone runs away? It’s crucial that you draw up a protocol in advance, with all of the steps to be followed if someone goes missing.

In addition, technology can help to prevent runaway behaviour and to intervene quickly if someone does slip away. Technology like LynX® lifeline: a unique, advanced light management system that controls lighting, automatically switches on and off and dims at fixed times or in certain circumstances.

LynX® lifeline can help stop elderly individuals with dementia from actually running off. In particular, the technology can keep them away intuitively from the exit in the hallway or in the building. Thanks to LynX® lifeline, it always remains dark at those exits. At the same time, brighter light makes their safe living space and the nursing station extra warm and attractive.

Moreover, the lighting fixtures of LynX® lifeline contain hardware with which you can follow elderly individuals with dementia and runaway behaviour on a map of the residential care centre - provided they are wearing a bracelet. With full respect for their privacy, naturally.

JYou follow the residents on the map, within the software of the alarm and communication platform LynX® connect, to which LynX® lifeline is linked. A truly unique solution for localisation, with which you not only detect but also follow older people with runaway behaviour from room to room and hallway to hallway.

Thanks to the technology of LynX® lifeline, you can thus deal correctly with runaway behaviour and offer peace of mind to family and friends: you know at all times where the resident is located and where he or she is going, naturally with full respect for privacy. And that facilitates the work of the caregiver as well.

Curious about how LynX® lifeline can help you?

Written by Céline De Geeter