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If you have a loved one that suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or has some type of memory loss, you may be concerned that they might wander. Today’s episode will discuss some signs that could indicate there’s a risk of wandering, a few ideas to prevent wandering and finally, how to be prepared if your loved one should wander.

Welcome to The Seniors Circle where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

It is a terrifying prospect to think of one’s loved one in a position where they not only don’t know where they are, but they may not be safe either. Whether it be outdoors in the elements, in inclement weather or in areas of very high vehicle traffic that they’re unable to navigate, we never want our loved ones to have to go through this.

Signs That Could Indicate There’s a Risk of Wandering

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people who suffer from Alzheimer’s will wander, and it can be very dangerous. Some of the signs that could indicate that there’s a risk of wandering include, noticing that your loved one is forgetting how to get to familiar places, has begun to talk about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work, trying to or wanting to, go home when they are at home. Maybe they’ve become very restless or begun to pace, or have started to ask questions about the whereabouts of past friends and family.

Prevent Wandering

If one of these things strikes a chord with you, please know that it’s not a given that you’re going to be facing an emergency very soon. There are actually some things that we can do to prevent wandering and I’d like to share some of those things with you today.

  1. One of the first things that we can do is having a routine. This provides structure, which is something that really helps reduce the stress and agitation.
  2. We can identify the most likely times of the day that wandering may occur, plan things or activities for those times, in order to avoid restlessness.
  3. Reassure the person, if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented. If a person with dementia is trying to leave to go home or go to work, use language that’s focused on validation as opposed to correcting them. For example, say, we’re staying here tonight we’re safe and I’ll be with you. We can go home tomorrow after a good night’s rest.
  4. Make sure that all of their basic needs are met. Have they been to the bathroom? Are they thirsty or hungry?
  5. Avoid really hectic environments. This is very confusing and can cause a great deal of disorientation.
  6. Any locks that are installed should be placed out of the line of sight. Put them either high or low, just not right where they’ll be seeing them.
  7. Use devices that alert when a door or a window is opened. There’s sophisticated alarms that can be used, but a simple bell can work as well.
  8. Ensure that there’s always supervision. Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised and never lock someone in their home or in a car alone, for example.
  9. Keep car keys out of sight. A person with dementia may not just wander by foot. If a person is able to still drive, consider using a GPS device that’ll help you if they do get lost.
  10. Another trick that can be known to work is, placing black doormats in front of doors. The mat is perceived, many times, by someone with memory loss as a black hole in which they’re afraid of falling. This causes them to avoid going near that door.

Have a Plan If Your Loved One Does Wander

It’s very important to have a plan in place in case your loved one does wander. Know what your plan is in case of an emergency, in order to act quickly.

  1. Keep a list of people that you would call on for help and have their information easily available.
  2. Ask neighbors, friends, and family to call if they see your loved one alone.
  3. Keep a recent close-up photo and updated medical information to provide to authorities.
  4. Know the neighborhood, pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
  5. Believe it or not wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand. So it’s helpful to know if your loved one is right or left-handed.
  6. Keep a list of places where the person may wander. This could include past places of work, former homes, churches, or even restaurants.
  7. If your loved ones do wander, search the area for no more than 15 minutes. If the person has not been found within that timeframe, call 911 in order to file a missing persons report. Just make sure that you inform the authorities, that the person does have dementia.

As a family caregiver, your loved one’s safety and happiness are your primary concerns. With these preventative measures, you can prevent wandering while improving the quality of life for your family member.

If you have any questions or would like assistance or support in any of these areas, please feel free to reach out to us at Seniors Helping Seniors at 248-969-4000. We would be happy to help in any way we can.

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