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Wandering residents and sleepless nights

February 6, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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I was sleeping soundly Monday night when Maria (pseudonym) pushed her wheelchair through my door. She is mentally challenged and when she cannot sleep, Maria roams the halls. It was 12:38 a.m., so I put my call light on and an aide soon took Maria out.

It seemed I had just fallen back to sleep when another resident, Daniel (pseudonym), wandered in with an upset Maria behind him running into everything. I tried redirecting Maria but she would not leave. I was afraid she might hurt herself or run into my computer.

As soon as I got Daniel to leave, he came back. He has dementia and likes to visit. But when his 6'3" frame approached my bed and sat down, I cringed. I convinced Daniel to leave but he returned partially clothed and tried to touch me. Luckily, I was able to talk him out of his advances, because I am unable to physically push him away.

Daniel left again for a little while, then he and Maria returned. He opened a drawer and took my glasses, ignoring my pleas to return them. I put on my call light and shouted to the aides that Daniel had my glasses.

Daniel came back into my room wearing my glasses. Even though they looked funny on him, I did want them back in one piece. I put my call light on again. But when it was not answered quickly, I woke my roommate. Charlene (pseudonym) woke to find Daniel staring down at her. Despite her small stature, she responded like a mother bear. She removed my glasses from Daniel's face and directed Daniel and Maria out of the room. Then she held the door closed for a couple of minutes. But that did not keep them out.

They were in and out of our room a few more times. On Daniel's last visit he tried to feed me a cookie. He came close to shoving it into my mouth, but my wiggling prevented it.

This is the second night in the last month that these two residents have wandered in an out of the room, and kept me awake. I wish there were a way to consistently stop wandering residents from coming into my room, especially at night.

I did see a solution to this problem at one nursing home. A personal alarm (like those put on residents to prevent falls) was mounted across a resident's doorway. When the alarm went off, the staff moved quickly to escort the wanderer out.

Please share in the comments below how wandering residents are handled after nightfall at your facility.

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Comments

When you wrote "I wish there were a way to consistently stop wandering residents from coming into my room, especially at night" the first thing that came to mind is that this very much falls into the "personal safety" realm. This is completely and utterly UNACCEPTABLE. Administration should have a policy on what to do about this or what to do to prevent it. When I lived in a facility for a little over a year my door was kept locked (when I wanted it locked) and only the staff had keys to enter when they needed to. I would not have been able to even sleep if I knew other residents could wander into my room and do God knows what at any given time.

At the very least, your privacy and safety overnight (when you are most vulnerable) needs to be taken into consideration ASAP. Who knows what "Daniel" is capable of and, for that very reason, the facility could be sued for anything really bad happening to you or any other residents because this "wandering" is allowed by the facility. Your personal property is also at risk (your glasses -- prescription or not). Which is also UNACCEPTABLE. I require daily prescription glasses and they cannot just be "replaced or repaired" overnight. Of course that is only one example but you may also have some cash in your room that can disappear because of a resident who is mobile and therefore capable of theft. With Daniel having dementia he could eat your cash or rip it up and therefore not replaceable unless the facility wants to pay you back. But I think my point is well illustrated without having to give that example that is also a serious relevant possibility.

If it were me, I would be drafting a letter to the state YESTERDAY. You have a right, not a privilege, for your own personal safety in a facility. If a facility is allowing "non-safe" behaviors and not formally recognizing the safety of all residents the facility needs to be held accountable.

Lori

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...