CDAL Insights: How Effective Is Your Community’s Elopement Training?

CDAL Insights: How Effective Is Your Community’s Elopement Training?

As community leaders, we all have annual, quarterly, monthly, and sometimes even weekly tasks, training, and drills that we have to check off of our “to do list.” But—regardless of your position and title—what truly keeps you up at night? Putting aside concerns over legal liabilities, reputation damage, and financial consequences, a vulnerable senior getting injured on our watch is the nightmare we all hope never comes true. Last year at The Summit of Uptown in Park Ridge we executed four elopement drills, once per quarter, to address situations in which a resident may wander due to confusion or cognitive decline. The purpose of any drill is to practice the role one might play in a real-life situation and to acquire efficiency in the task at hand. We all have written policies and procedures on how to conduct drills. But, apart from the obvious—to become proficient and to check it off the list—why do we do them?

Why Role Play?

In our elopement drills, everyone is involved, irrespective of the individual’s department and position. We hold a briefing at the end of the drill and ask for everyone’s opinion on how we did. For us, the findings are what is the most important part of the practice. Findings do not include feedback like “resident was found,” “assessment was done,” and “vital signs were taken,” etc. Rather, findings indicate what we can improve upon and what needs to be done differently. Findings include “How can we complete the task faster and more efficiently?,” “What went wrong?,” and “How do we improve?” To hear it straight from the “boots on the ground” brings a much more meaningful piece to the whole exercise. For instance, during one of our drills, we found that we needed more radios for better communication. Another time, we realized that one of our staff members did not have access to our security program.

How Do Your Written Policies Stack Up?

In 2018, we are planning on moving this exercise to different shifts—incidents don’t only happen Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 to 5 when communities are fully staffed. Our first quarter elopement drill is scheduled to take place in the evening and in partnership with our local police department. How do your written policies and procedures on elopement translate into action? Will your staff take the correct steps prior to your arrival to the community if an elopement was to occur at 9 p.m.? Remember, educated employees are the key to ensuring the safety of our residents.


1.) Written policies and procedures are equally important to educated employees.
2.) Involve your whole team in role play regardless of department or position.
3.) Debrief after drills to listen to everyone’s feedback.
4.) Take feedback seriously. Implement changes that improve processes and resident safety.
5.) Perform drills at varying hours and days to assure proper response under all situations.

Certified Director of Assisted Living (CDAL)

Wilson Anhar, CDAL


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