When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Wanders
This is the daily concern and nightmare feared most by many with spouses, parents or grandparents with Alzheimer’s or dementia: that a loved one will become confused and wander. Worse, she or he might run into harm.
According to the American Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander, and if they are not found within 24 hours, will suffer serious injury or death.
Here are some steps to provide you with ways to help a loved one stay safe in their home.
• Make time for regular exercise to minimize restlessness.
• Consider installing locks that require a key.
• Position locks high or low on the door; many people with dementia will not think to look beyond eye level.
• Keep in mind fire and safety concerns for all family members; the lock(s) must be accessible to others and easy to open.
• Try a barrier like a curtain or colored streamer to mask the door. A “stop” sign or “do not enter” sign also may help.
• Place a black mat or paint a black space on your front porch; this may appear to be an impassable hole to the person with dementia.
• Add child-safe plastic covers to doorknobs.
• Consider installing a home security system or monitoring system designed to keep watch over someone with dementia.
• Consider a wearable GPS digital device or other technology to track or locate a person who wanders off.
• Put away essential items such as the confused person’s coat, purse or glasses. Some individuals will not go out without certain articles.
• Have the person wear an ID bracelet and sew ID labels in their clothes.
• Keep a current photo on hand in case you need to report your loved one missing.
• Register the person likely to wander with the police department or the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program.
• Tell neighbors about your relative’s wandering behavior and make sure they have your phone number.
Elaine Gerwin is the owner of EG Helping Hand Services, LLC, which can help the families of persons with dementia and Alzheimer’s by providing respite care for those taking care of their parents. Call for an individualized package that allows you to have a needed break while your loved one is cared for in a professional manner. Connect at 520-471-5077 or EGHelpingHandServices.com. See ad, page 14.