Each year, vulnerable adults die from exposure after walking-away from their homes, as well as their assisted living and nursing home residences. Long-term care residents and family members with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, those who are confused, or who tend to wander are especially vulnerable.

It is not enough to simply watch over them. Much like children – if you turn your back for a few minutes, they are gone. Think they are asleep or occupied in an activity, before you know it – they are gone! When vulnerable adults do walk-away they are usually not dressed appropriately for the weather conditions. They could be in jeopardy within hours, even minutes.

Caregivers can prevent walk-away deaths by taking these simple precautions:

In Your Homes:

Position locks high or low so they are difficult to reach by affected family members.

Place alarms on all exterior doors that will sound when opened – including garages, enclosed patios, and yards.

In Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities:

Family and staff should locate alarms for all exterior doors including enclosed patios and yards.
Make sure each alarm works. Open the door, do the alarms sound? Do staff members respond to alarms?

Check for tampering. Has the staff disabled the alarm so they can exit the building to smoke, without setting off the alarm? Are doors propped open? Do the locks work?

Encourage bracelets – ask for special bracelets that set off alarms when exiting the building or designated area, if loved ones have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or tend to wander.

Request clarification – ask assisted living and nursing home facility staff about search and notification policies, for missing residents.

For All Situations:

Recruit neighbors – ask neighbors in advance to keep an eye out for wandering loved ones and / or residents. If a loved one or resident is missing, recruit neighbors to form an organized search party.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at