Unexplained Absences and Risk of Death and Injury Among Nursing Home Residents: A Systematic Review

Marta H. Woolford, Carolina Weller, Joseph E Ibrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Unexplained absence of nursing home (NH) residents is one of the most challenging issues related to the care of older people. The aim of this review was to examine the death and injury outcomes of unexplained absence of NH residents. Method: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, AgeLine, and Cochrane Library to identify qualitative and quantitative studies published in the English language. Data on death and injury were collated, and aggregate proportions were calculated where possible. Results: Nine studies were identified; most (n = 6) were conducted in the United States. Persons with dementia formed the study population in all studies. There were 1440 individual unexplained absences reported across the 9 studies. We calculated a rate of 82 deaths and 61 injuries per 1000 incidents of unexplained absence. Extreme temperatures were the most common cause of death. Most individuals left by foot, and were found within a 1-mile radius of place last seen in green vegetation and waterways. Conclusion: This review provides valuable insight into death and injury outcomes. Further studies are recommended to improve understanding and prevent adverse outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-e1-366.e15
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Absconding
  • Dementia
  • Dignity
  • Elopement
  • Residential aged care
  • Wandering

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