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D. Huvent-Grelle, I. Delabrière, J. Roche, C. Jacquet, D. Dulys, F. Puisieux

J Aging Res Clin Practice 2012;1(1):51-55

Background: Elopement is frequently observed among older adults with AD. Little work has been done on this significant problem. Objectives: to analyse the prevalence of the phenomenon, to define the profile of those who run away and to describe intervention strategies employed to prevent new intent to elope. Design and setting: Prospective study over one year (2009) of 6,649 participants living in nursing homes or long-term care units in the North of France. Participants: Prospective survey of elopement incidents that occurred among 65 licensed representative facilities in the North of France. Measurements: Our survey describes the circumstances, environmental risks and injuries sustained in 66 elopement incidents involving our residents. Results: The distinctive features of people who elope and elopement incidents are described in our communication. All residents who eloped had been diagnosed with AD or other forms of dementia. 35 % had a history of elopement. No resident was found dead. Once the patients got back, caregivers made significant changes (36 %): by adapting organization levels, pharmacological interventions, and activity programmes. However for those who had run away (64 %) and whose carers did not change their strategies; we noted 15 new elopement incidents (versus 3 when changes had been made). There was no legal investigation involved in the course of our study. Conclusion: Elopement can be dangerous. It puts both families and caregivers under a lot of stress. Physical restraints are used to prevent wandering and elopement. The problem for physicians, administrators and caregivers is working out how to improve safety enough to prevent elopement incidents for residents without encroaching upon their rights.

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