Patient elopement is a common issue that often stems from other behavioral issues, including dementia. Elopement patients can present many problems for their loved ones, especially during elopement patient travel. Such situations usually go better with medical professionals involved, strong guidelines to follow and a focus on patient safety.
Much like air travel for dementia patients, elopement patient travel requires a different approach than regular non-emergency medical transport (NEMT). Physicians may recommend that elopement patients not travel at all. They may feel more inclined to allow it if medical professionals are on hand.
What Is An Elopement Patient?
The term “elopement patient” refers to someone who leaves a care facility, including hospitals or nursing homes, without permission. These unauthorized decisions put the patient in danger of injury or worse.
In most cases, the term refers to those with dementia leaving a safe area, most often their home or a care facility, according to Very Well Health. Elopement patients may decide to leave intentionally, although in many cases it is unintentional. The patient simply walks with a destination in mind, but soon becomes lost (a situation called “wandering”).
In many cases, an elopement patient leaves a building if they do not have constant supervision. They may decide to leave when sent to another area to get a blood test or medical procedure, or while going to the bathroom.
Dealing With Elopement Patients
Most medical facilities have procedures in place to manage elopement patients. Writing about the issue for Health Leaders Media, a nurse recommended that nurses always immediately identify those at a higher risk for elopement. They include those with severe psychosis, dementia, or drug and alcohol withdrawal.
But elopement can happen with anyone. Warning signs of those at a high risk for elopement include:
- A history of attempted elopement or wandering
- Talking about leaving, wanting to go to work or go home
- Restlessness and agitation
- Showing signs and symptoms of dementia
- The ability to move freely, with or without a wheelchair or walker, when they have other signs on this list
- Those able-bodied enough that people may mistake them for a visitor
Elopement Patient Travel
All the above precautions and signs also apply to elopement patient travel. As elopement patients typically have some level of dementia, the rules offered by the Alzheimer’s Association for travel apply in this situation.
The association recommends planning ahead, not overloading the person with too much information, and sticking with familiar destinations. People should avoid elaborate tours or sightseeing, both of which could overwhelm or confuse a person with dementia. They also recommend that those traveling with a person who has dementia to stay with them at all times.
People can benefit from having a trained nurse on the journey who can watch the patient closely during their trip. They also manage medication and equipment and provide any medical services required during the trip. A trained flight nurse can provide both the patient and their family peace of mind.
Having an experienced medical professional while traveling with an elopement patient is key to having a calm trip. While elopement patient travel presents unique challenges, proper care and planning can allow everyone involved to enjoy the trip.