THE BLOG

What To Do When Mom or Dad Wanders

02/10/2015 05:53 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT
Lori Andrews via Getty Images

Is your dad, spouse or other relative with Alzheimer's breaking away from the family on an outing... getting up in the middle of the night and leaving the house...wandering out of the doctor's office when you turn your back for a minute?

Here's what you can do:

  • Put a baby monitor in their room. If your loved one gets up, or starts moving around, you'll hear them before they're able to get too far.
  • Put locks on exterior doors. But have them installed out of the sightline, close to the bottom or the top of the door.
  • Install an electronic alarm system. Or hang small bells on door knobs, as a less expensive alternative.
  • Use nightlights throughout the house. Don't try to discourage the wandering by keeping the house dark. It won't change the behavior and it's unsafe.
  • Get ID jewelry. Medic Alert bracelets are engraved with your most urgent medical needs, your special MedicAlert ID number, and the 24-hour Emergency Hotline for first responders to call. (medicalert.ca). Make sure, when you are out and about, that your charge carries identification.
  • Finally, write your name and phone number on a piece of paper they carry in their wallet or pocket.
  • Consider Location-Based Mapping System (LBS). This will let you use your computer to monitor your loved one's location. Comfort Zone (alz.org/comfortzone) is designed for people with Alzheimer's. Your charge wears or carries a small device similar to a pager, which communicates their location to the web-based application and sends you regular updates.
  • Buy brightly colored clothing, especially pajamas and housecoats. If they wander at night, the increased visibility will make them easier to spot.
  • Know your neighbors. Make sure they're aware that your charge shouldn't be out alone, or at nighttime. Since most Alzheimer's sufferers don't go far, the people close to you are your best alarm system.

Why do wanderers wander?

Your charge could be overwhelmed, so it's sometimes recommended that Alzheimer's sufferers avoid loud, crowded spaces. But some wanderers leave to fulfill a perceived mission. They may, for example, believe they need to go to work, get on a bus, help a friend move... things they no doubt did at an earlier time.

Three out of five seniors with dementia go missing at some point; 75 percent of them are found 2.4 km (1.67 miles) from where they disappeared.

Further sources for info:

Agingcare.com

Healthcentral.com

Helpforalzheimersfamilies.com

Alz.org

This story was originally published on Alzlive.com, a website for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia. For more tips, answer and support, visit the site here.

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