The Tendency to Wander by Seniors with Alzheimer’s Dementia is Dangerous to Life
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 out of 10 seniors with Alzheimer’s dementia will wander. This is so dangerous, as off they go and many get lost. Most of them will not remember how to get home. This is one of the worst problems facing caregivers. If a caregiver is momentarily unable to keep an eye on a loved one with dementia, that may be the moment that they decide to take off. A wandering Alzheimer’s patient really needs two caregivers, so that they can keep a constant eye on him/her. In a few seconds they can literally disappear. The worst scenarios are those who take off in an auto, as this can take them much further off than those who leave on foot. Although some are found well and safe within the first 24 hours after they wander off and disappear, some simply do not make it home again alive. Here are some of the dangers they can run into:
- Falling and getting injured
- Getting into accidents
- Suffering from extreme weather conditions like getting heat stroke or freezing (hypothermia)
- Getting dehydrated, as most will leave without taking a bottle of water with them
If your Loved one has Alzheimer’s Take Measures to Prevent Wandering Well Before it can Happen
There is no way to know which people with dementia will wander. The first time a loved one wanders off can be the last time and this is every caregiver’s nightmare. However, the Alzheimer’s Association shares some warning signs that might be a clue that your loved one is about to start wandering:
- They forget how to get to places they were once familiar with.
- They begin to come home later than they should.
- They say they need to go back to work, when in fact they may be retired.
- They also may say they want to go home when in fact they are still living at home.
- They are restless and agitated and may walk around and around without resting.
- They begin to have trouble finding their way around their own house like forgetting where the bathroom is.
- They become nervous and confused in crowded places like shopping centers or restaurants.
- They appear to be working on a hobby or project but never really succeed to make anything.
- They suffer from sleep disturbances.
Take Protective Steps
- Make sure your loved one is wearing some kind of identification markers like a bracelet or necklace that you can order from MedicAlert.
- Enroll your loved one in the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® Program (call 1-888-572-8566 to find the program in your area).
- Sew labels in all their clothes with their name, address and phone number.
- Keep a piece of unwashed clothing in a plastic bag that could be used by sniffer dogs to locate them if they go missing.
- Ask neighbors to call you if they see your loved one out alone.
- Keep a photo and/or video of your loved one that could be used by police to help find them.
- According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, If your loved one goes missing and you cannot find him/her within 15 minutes then you must call 911.
Steps To Prevent Wandering
- Keep doors and windows locked, but since this is risky in case of a fire, do not leave your loved one alone.
- Put chimes or bells on doors or windows that will give off noise if these are opened.
- Keep car keys out of sight as well as coats, hats and other travelling gear. If your loved one is still driving, have GPS installed to help them find their way home.
- Have secure fencing and a gate installed around the yard.
A Silver Alert system operates in many states to help locate missing seniors suffering from dementia who wander off.
A Residential Memory Care Solution
In truth, the best way to keep your loved one safe from wandering is if they are in a residential memory care facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York. Van Duyn also has a wonderful recreational program to encourage socialization.
Wandering is a very dangerous characteristic of Alzheimer’s and all steps should be taken to prevent your loved one from wandering off either by foot or by car. Some demented seniors who wander off get seriously injured or die. Since Alzheimer’s is a progressively deteriorating illness you may want to check out the possibility of putting your loved one in a long-term memory care unit in a residential nursing facility where they are the most protected from wandering.