Out of all the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps one of the most concerning is the individual’s tendency for wandering as well as the potential dangers that can occur if the senior becomes confused or lost. Wandering can occur if the senior is:
- Frightened, confused or overwhelmed
- Looking for someone or something
- Trying to preserve a familiar past routine (for example, going to work or shopping)
- Tending to a fundamental need (such as looking for a drink of water or going to the bathroom)
The goal is twofold; to keep the senior secure, and to be certain that his / her needs are met to try and prevent the desire to wander from the outset. Consider the following basic safety precautions for a loved one challenged by dementia and wandering:
- Ensure the home is equipped with a security system and locks that the person is not able to master, such as a sliding bolt lock out of his or her range of vision. A number of alarms can be bought, from something as simple as placing a bell over door knobs, to highly-sensitive pressure mats that will sound an alarm when stepped upon, to GPS products that may be worn, and more. It’s also recommended that you sign up for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
- Disguise exits by covering doors with curtains, setting up temporary folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You may also try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes dissuade those who are in the earlier stages of dementia from trying to exit.
- Another risk for individuals struggling with dementia and wandering is the additional risk of falling. Examine each room of the home and fix any tripping concerns, such as removing throw rugs, electrical cords, and any hindrances which may be blocking walkways, installing extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
It is important to remember that by using supervision and direction, wandering is not necessarily an issue. Take a walk with each other outside whenever weather permits and the senior is in the mood to be mobile, providing the added advantage of fresh air, exercise, and quality time together.
While often hard to manage, the dementia care team at Home Sweet Home In-Home Care has been specially trained to be equally vigilant and proactive in deterring wandering and to utilize creative tactics to help older adults with dementia remain relaxed and happy. Contact our St. Joseph, MI home care experts at (269) 849-9252 to learn more! You can also reach us at 269-373-5444 in Kalamazoo, 269-763-5350 in Paw Paw, or 269-963-9888 in Battle Creek.