At every stage of dementia, people with the condition are at risk for both missing incidents, in which they are unattended and unable to navigate a safe return to their caregiver, and “wandering,” a term often used to describe repetitive locomotion with patterns such as lapping or pacing. By understanding the differences between these two phenomena, nurses can teach caregivers how to anticipate and prevent missing incidents, which are not necessarily related to wandering. The authors differentiate missing incidents from wandering, describe personal characteristics that may influence the outcomes in missing incidents, and suggest strategies for preventing and responding to missing incidents.
When someone’s behavior is consistently outside the norm, our tendency is to stop paying close attention to observable differences in that behavior. This may be particularly true when we are responsible for the care and safety of a person with dementia. As described by the overview above, one of the CE articles in the December issue of AJN, “Missing Incidents in Community-Dwelling People with Dementia,” focuses on a crucial distinction between two types of behavior in people with dementia, one that is expected and manageable and even at time beneficial (for exercise, self-calming, etc.), and one that can be far more dangerous. Here’s a useful table that spells out some of the key differences to keep in mind between missing incidents and wandering. But for a more detailed look at the topic, please click the link above and read the entire article.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor