Of the numerous ramifications of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most alarming is the person’s propensity for wandering and the potential dangers that can occur in the event that the senior becomes disoriented or lost. Alzheimer’s wandering can happen if the older adult is:
- Frightened, confused, or overwhelmed.
- Trying to find someone or something.
- Wanting to preserve a familiar past routine (such as going to a job or shopping).
- Tending to a simple need (such as looking for a glass of water or going to the bathroom).
What Can Family Caregivers Do to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Wandering?
The purpose is twofold; to help keep the senior safe, and also to ensure his or her needs are satisfied to try and prevent the need to wander in the first place. Consider the following safety measures if your parent is prone to wander:
- Be sure that the house is equipped with a security system and locks that the person is unable to master, such as a sliding bolt lock out of his or her range of vision. Many different alarms can be obtained, from something as basic as placing a bell over doorknobs, to highly sensitive pressure mats designed to sound an alarm when stepped on, to GPS devices that may be worn, and more. It is also a smart idea to register for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
- Disguise exits by covering up doors with curtains, positioning short-term folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You may try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes deter people in the earlier stages of dementia from attempting to exit.
- Another danger for individuals who wander is the additional risk of falling. Assess each room of the house and fix any tripping concerns, such as removing throw rugs, extension cords, and any obstructions which could be blocking walkways, adding extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
It’s important to keep in mind that by using supervision and direction, wandering is not necessarily a problem. Go for a walk together outside whenever weather allows and the senior is in the state of mind to be mobile, providing the extra benefit of fresh air, physical exercise, and quality time together.
While often tricky to manage, the dementia care team at CareFor has been specially trained to be equally vigilant and proactive in deterring Alzheimer’s wandering and to utilize creative tactics to help older adults with dementia remain calm and happy. Call us at (512) 338-4533 to find out more about our in-home elder care in Austin and the surrounding areas.