Elopement and Wandering policy: by f3Sh3H5


									                                   Arnold Center, Inc.

Elopement and Wandering policy:

Elopement is defined as: a customer that is not pre-authorized to leave the agency or
activity site, but does so intentionally. In some cases of elopement, the customer may
have developmental disabilities, learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), and
cognitive disabilities of various origins, affecting memory, attention, developmental
"maturity," problem-solving and logic skills, etc. Depending on the severity of the
disability, elopement may place some customers at risk for serious harm.

Wandering refers to a customer who “strays beyond the view or control of staff without
the intent of leaving. Wandering can also lead to significant safety risks when the
customer has significant disabilities.

Note, the unauthorized leaving of the agency typically violates the Arnold Center’s
workplace policy, but fully capable customers are able to legally leave without giving
notice. Though there may be disciplinary consequences to their leaving, including
termination of services, the agency can not legally force anyone to stay. If a customer
informs staff they are planning to leave, their service coordinator shall encourage them
to stay. This communication between customer and staff must be documented on the
documented correspondence form. If the customer chooses to leave the agency, in
spite of the encouragement, an incident report should be completed and appropriate
contacts shall be notified. If the customer who informs staff they are leaving the site
has questionable safety skills, staff must escort the individual until they are sure the
customer’s safety is secure.

Protection of Arnold Center customers from elopement and wandering risks require
attention to preventative measures through assessment and elopement precautions as
well as appropriate intervention after elopement occurs. The assessment begins during
the intake process. Adequately assessing customers for elopement risk factors and use
of elopement precautions can prevent elopement and improve safety. At intake,
appropriate personnel shall determine whether or not each new customer referred for
services has a history of elopement and /or wandering. Staff shall conduct personal
interviews, review referral information and case history, and refer to previous customer
assessments. The support team of a person identified as having potential for elopement
and/or wandering shall be informed of the specific safety risks associated with
elopement and wandering as it relates to each activity the person elects to participate
in. If the person served and their support team agrees to services, in spite of the
potential risks associated with service delivery, each member of the support team,
including the customer will be asked to sign the Person Centered Plan. These signatures
authorize the Arnold Center to provide service. Prior to initiation of service, however,
the Service Coordinator will complete a Health and Special Considerations form
documenting the customer’s potential for elopement and/or wandering. Additionally, a
program plan must be developed by the support team for persons prone to elopement
that includes strategies (agreed upon by the support team) that proactively address
customer safety. The Service Coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that both the
Health and Special Considerations form and Program Plan are reviewed by all support
staff who could potentially be involved in providing service to the customer. Support
staff signatures will be obtained on these documents to serve as evidence of their
understanding of the risks associated with the customer and the role they play in
mitigating the risks.

The Plan shall clearly identify the support team’s expectations of the Arnold Center
should an elopement occur; who should be contacted? Should 911 be called? Should a
community search for the person be launched? Etc.

Note: In any situation where the customer’s elopement is likely to pose a
safety risk, a photo of the person shall be maintained in the person’s master
file. This picture may be used to identify the person to emergency personnel.
A picture is required on for those persons who have a history of elopement.

At time of referral, it may not be evident that a particular customer has an elopement or
wandering issue. If, during the course of providing service, it becomes evident that a
customer has an elopement and/or wandering issue, support staff should be informed
immediately and a special team meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible. In
the case of an elopement, the service coordinator may choose to suspend services until
a team meeting can be scheduled and a plan developed and approved.

Customer care involves many gray areas in which professional judgment is required.
Keeping the customer safe is the primary goal and should guide all decision making. For
customers who are competent and who have left the area without informing staff,
response to the absence is based on what is reasonable typical protocol for that
particular customer and for the particular situation. In all cases, an elopement requires
at minimum the completion of an incident report. To avoid unnecessary searches for
customers whose safety is not compromised by elopement and for whom elopement is
routine, procedures are in place for customers to sign out or otherwise communicate
with the staff before leaving the agency.

The elopement of customers whose safety is compromised by the elopement requires
both actions by staff in the area from which the customer is missing, as well as an
organization-wide response. Typical protocol, unless otherwise specified in the Person-
Centered Plan, includes the following steps:

      Immediately notification of the Service Coordinator by reporting the elopement.
      Immediate search of the facility and surrounding area by staff.
      Launch an immediate search of the geographic area surrounding the facility (a
       minimum of four employees, utilizing the maps provided at the front desk, will
       search a predetermined geographic area).
      Service Coordinator notification of 911 with a description of the missing customer
       and other pertinent information as necessary.
      Notification of the customer’s sponsor, family, and other identified contacts as
      Notification of appropriate administrative personnel (Department Coordinator,
       President, Vice President, etc.)
      Completion of an incident report by the person’s Service Coordinator within 24
       hours and submitted as required.
      If it is the first incident of elopement, or if there is not already a plan in place to
       address elopement, a team meeting will be scheduled by the Service Coordinator
       to modify the Person-Centered Plan to address the risk associated with
       elopement and to develop a behavior plan as appropriate.
      If this is the first incident of elopement, and if Health and Special Considerations
       for the customer have not already established, the Service Coordinator should
       complete a Health and Special Consideration form and route it as required.

Though unique situations may require some spontaneous alterations to these
procedures depending on the site, the key is to do what is reasonably necessary to
return the customer to a safe environment.

Submitted by: __________________________________________

Approved by: __________________________________________

Date: 7/2/08

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