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Wandering behavior in the nursing home setting

Loren Marie Angiullo, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Wandering, a common behavior exhibited by the confused elderly (Mayer and Darby, 1991; Monsour and Robb, 1982), poses a significant problem to the individual, to the family, and to care providers. The research supporting the effectiveness of various interventions in managing wandering behavior indicates that simple procedures and environmental modifications may be used to good effect. It is unclear, however, which interventions are being utilized in the nursing home setting (Fisher, Fink, and Loomis, 1993), and which interventions are the most economically practical. This study had three main goals. The first was to obtain descriptive data on the problem of wandering in the nursing home setting, including the prevalence of wandering, the reasons why it is considered a problem, and the interventions used to manage it. The second goal was to determine whether or not specific factors, such as staff-to-patient ratio, exercise and activities reduce the problem of wandering. The final goal was to compare the problem and management of wandering behavior on traditional nursing units and specialized Alzheimer's units. The nursing director of each skilled nursing facility in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (N = 584) was asked in writing to complete a survey regarding the problem of wandering in his/her facility. The total number of surveys returned was 197 or 37.81%. Data were analyzed by means of descriptive statistics, correlational procedures, ANOVAs, and regression analyses. The prevalence of wandering behavior in the nursing home setting was found to be 11.6% on traditional units and 52.71% on Alzheimer's units. Important information was gained on the use and effectiveness of various strategies in the management of wandering behavior. Moreover, it was determined that certain interventions were not used because the facilities were unaware of them or lacked the money and staff to implement them. Regression analyses determined that the percent of wanderers and the use of psychoactive medication were significant predictors of the degree to which wandering is viewed as a problem. Finally, Alzheimer's units were found to offer a unique and valuable setting for the care of wanderers. Explanations for these results as well as the limitations of the study were discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Mental health|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Angiullo, Loren Marie, "Wandering behavior in the nursing home setting" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737502.