That dreaded phone ringing at 3:00 am, charge nurse on memory care unit, resident cannot be located. Your protocol for “missing resident” is in place, staff are trained and have done a great job initiating a search and following the protocol. Resident has not been located. As you drive to the center, you are on the phone with the local authorities, talking to staff members, planning to notify the family upon arriving at the center.
Then the phone rings again, the resident has been located and is not harmed. Your heartbeat slows down, you continue to drive to the center, relieved. But your work has just begun. Now, the investigation, how did this happen? Was it a system failure or human error? A lot to investigate, identifying the root cause of the problem will take time, interviewing staff, assessing residents at risk, and talking to the family, reassuring them that you are investigating.
With the cold weather upon us, it is the perfect time to take a look at your disaster preparedness manual – does it include a comprehensive missing resident/elopement policy? When was the last time your staff were trained on the policy, identifying residents at risk, or participated in an elopement drill? How about preventive maintenance, environmental issues are often related to elopements. It’s too late when the phone rings at 3:00 am! Be prepared, educate and above all keep residents safe, it is everyone’s responsibility. Can you prevent every incident resulting in resident injury? Likely not, however, you won’t stand a chance if you aren’t prepared. Add this topic to your QAPI committee agenda, make it a priority! Stay well and stay informed!
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