The Danger of Wandering by Seniors with Alzheimer’s Dementia
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and the Alzheimer’s Association is calling on the public to go purple to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. For more information or help with Alzheimer’s disease phone the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: 1.800.272.3900
Wandering Behavior by Seniors Suffering from Alzheimer’s is Dangerous to Life
According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, 6 out of 10 seniors with Alzheimer’s disease will wander. This is very dangerous, as they often do not remember how to get home and they can get lost. A demented wanderer is in danger of injuries from falls, accidents, freezing (hypothermia), fatigue and dehydration. There was even at least one reported case of a woman who drove away in a car from her assisted living residence and was found dead a week later from a traffic accident. In many cases they are found alive in the first 24 hours after going missing, but tragically there are also those that are found injured or dead. In most cases they are found very close to where they live.
Take Measures to Prevent Wandering before it can Happen
There are ways of preventing wandering, and ways of protecting your loved one in case they do get lost. However, the time to do this is before your loved one even shows signs of wandering. You can have safety issues in place ahead of time. Remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Wandering is so dangerous that you must do everything to prevent it from ever happening.
The Alzheimer’s Association says there are some warning signs that signal that your loved one may be getting ready 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.
- 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 demented seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias who wandered off and there is currently a pending bill in congress for a National Silver Alert Act.
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 Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway, New Jersey. Royal Suites also offer respite care, so that if you or other caregivers need a break, your loved one can go there and be properly cared for while you are gone. You can go away knowing your loved one is safe and in good hands.
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.
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