Wanderers with Cognitive Impairment in Department of Veterans Affairs Nursing Home Care Units

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wanderers, disruptive behavior, nursing home residents, Veterans Affairs

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OBJECTIVES: To explore the extent of and factors associated with male nursing home residents who wander.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional design with secondary data analyses.

SETTING: One hundred thirty-four nursing home facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen thousand ninety-two nursing home residents with moderate or severe cognitive impairment admitted over a 4-year period.

MEASUREMENTS: Selected variables from the Minimum Data Set included ratings recorded at residents' admission to the nursing home (cognitive impairment, mood, behavior problems, activities of daily living, and wandering).

RESULTS: In this sample of residents with moderate or severe cognitive impairment, the proportion of wanderers was found to be 21%. Wanderers were more likely to exhibit severe (vs moderate) cognitive impairment, socially inappropriate behavior, resistance to care, use of antipsychotic medication, independence in locomotion or ambulation, and dependence in activities of daily living related to basic hygiene. A sizable proportion of wanderers were found to be wheelchair users (25%) or were wanderers with dual dementia and psychiatric diagnoses (23%), characteristics that are not well documented in the literature.

CONCLUSION: These results support previous clinical understanding of wanderers to be those who are more likely to exhibit more-severe cognitive impairment. Based on a statistical model with variables generated from prior research findings, classification as a wanderer was found to be associated with other disruptive activity such as socially inappropriate behavior and resisting care. Two understudied populations of wanderers were documented: wheelchair wanderers and those with comorbid dementia and psychiatric diagnoses. Future longitudinal studies should examine predictors of wandering behavior, and further research should explore the understudied subpopulations of wheelchair and dual-diagnosis wanderers who emerged in this study.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of the American Geratrics Society, v. 55, issue 5, p. 692-699