5 Tips for Keeping Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s and Dementia from Wandering

Every year, in the news, we hear stories of an elderly person wandering away from home and dying from being lost outside.  It doesn’t take long for an old person to succumb to adverse weather.  There are other dangers out there such as water hazards, busy streets, industrial sites, etc.  For those of us who are caregivers to an elderly loved one who is dealing with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia, this is a nightmare scenario.

How can we protect our loved one with dementia from having this happen to them?  First of all, we must recognize the ugly truth.  This is a potential risk.

My dad has always been a walker.  When he retired from his newspaper job, the hobby he adopted was taking walks.  His retirement goal was to walk 10,000 miles before he died.  He got a pedometer and proceed to go after his goal with gusto!  He would sometimes walk up to 6 miles a day.  In fact, he walk across Iowa on the bike paths, which we are fortunate to have.  He would park his car, walk 3 miles out and 3 miles back.  Being an old Iowa farm boy, he enjoyed walking in all kinds of weather.  He reached his goal by the time he was 72 years old.  Needless to say, he had a passion for his daily walks.

When he developed dementia, his passion for walking didn’t stop.  How could we keep him safe?  If you have a loved one with dementia, here’s a few ideas for reducing the risks.

1. Develop a a profile for them should they wander away.  In case of inclement weather when they wander, time will be working against us.  Being able to hand searchers a profile, immediately, can help them find them quicker.  This profile should include: their name, recent photo, date of birth, physical description, height, weight, other identifying characteristics such as moles, scares, tattoos, etc.  Knowing what clothes they were wearing when they left is very helpful.

2.  Keep a Alzheimer bracelet on them.  One with a G.P.S is very helpful.  The bracelet should have their name, address and your phone number.   The Alzheimer’s website has one they offer called Medic Alert and Safe Return.   In the case of my dad, he carried a cell phone.  Not because he could remember how to use it, but it was easy for him to fit it in his pocket and it came in handy for whoever found him.  The bonus of his phone was, it had G.P.S.  Once, on one of his “walks” he fell and hit his head.  A passerby stopped to help him and used Dad’s phone to call us to let us know where he was so we could pick him up.  Our number was listed as “emergency”.

3.  Inform the neighbors about your loved ones condition.  Keep a list of their names, addresses, and phone numbers.  Be sure they know your phone number and where you live.  I used to take walks with my dad.  Many of the neighbors knew my dad because of his friendly nature.  I would introduce myself to them, realizing they could be our first line of defense against losing him if he should ever wander away.  Many times, a neighbor will bring them home before they can get lost.

4.  Securing your home with deadbolts, slide bolts, or child safety knobs on all the exterior doors can help keep them inside.  These should be out of the line of sight if possible.  A electronic system such as an alarm system that reports “a door ajar” is helpful.  If there is a “dangerous for them” area in your home, keep it locked off from them, also.  This probably sound like a no brain-er, but never, ever lock a person with dementia in a home without supervision.

5.  Remember, people with dementia won’t just walk away from home, they could drive away.  Keep keys locked up away from them.  For our dementia patients who have enjoyed biking, this is another form of transportation which can take them away from their safe environment.

Alzheimer’s and dementia can progress very quickly.  Your loved one can seem very lucid one moment and an hour later they are in an alternate reality.  They can spend days in their alternate reality, not coherent, and then snap back for a time and be their old self.  This is why constant supervision is a must.

I know, first hand, how much of a relief it is to see my loved one sitting in the back of a police car as it pulls into the driveway!  Believe me, it only takes a minute of not watching them for them to wander away.  Preparation in advance can make all the difference in the world to their safety and your peace of mind.

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12 Responses to “5 Tips for Keeping Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s and Dementia from Wandering”

  1. Thanks for sharing the tips. Tip no 2 sound very efficient in case of seniors wandering aimlessly outside the house. They can become exposed to burglars or might get into an accident. These precautionary measures should be taken in order to ensure safe and healthy living standard for your loved one. The effects of these diseases may hurt you more than the ones suffering it. Making a routine can make seniors habitual of leading a life based on safe patterns too. http://www.homecareassistancefortmyers.com/

  2. Some wandering protection systems have a built in Medical Alert – Anchor-WP (Wandering Protection) from Safety Labs (www.safetylabs.org) has a built in Medical Alert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPsJU2uwOs0

  3. This short article is very informative, I wish to quote a few excerpts from this article in my site (with proper credit given). Hope that is fine with you.

  4. Medical equipment these days are more advanced and for me this is the best way to ensure the safety of a person who has Alzheimer’s. I like the idea of this Medic Alert and Safe Return, because it gives you a peace of mind while your loved one is enjoying a short walk in your neighborhood since it has a GPS and you can easily locate him. One more thing, this is also good for your loved one emotionally. He feels that he’s independent again and can do anything he wants. But of course, you can never go wrong with the old-fashioned way of ensuring the safety of your loved one. These things still work and as effective as the new tools.

    • KATHY says:

      I LOVE THE IDEA OF THE MEDIC ALERT AND THE SAFE RETURN WHERE DOES ONE GET THAT. MY SISTER IN LAW IS HAVING THAT PROBLEM, HER MOTHER WONDERS THE HOUSE AND SHE IS AFRAID HE WILL WONDER RIGHT OUT THE DOOR

      • Nan McAdam says:

        My mother-in-law has falling issues and she felt the most comfortable with the Phillips Lifeline Alert. The reason she chose this one is because it alerts the company when she falls. It doesn’t wait for the elder to push the button to tell them they are having trouble getting up. I liked this too because sometimes the elder is dazed when they fall and don’t think to push the button. She has used it and it has worked well for her. The website is http://www.lifelinesys.com/content/lifeline-products. The Alzheimer’s site for the Medic Alert Safe Return is https://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp. I’ve heard some good things about this product. It’s very upset to have our loved one wandering and not able to find their way home. Good luck on your search.

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  6. jonathan smith says:

    Hello author, i would like to say you thanks for this information. The tips you shared with us, are would be so helpful for us because some of us do not know what to do at the time of dealing with the Alzheimer’s patients.
    http://bluebirdcare.ie/specialised-care/alzheimers-dementia-care/

    • Nan McAdam says:

      I’m glad you found the information helpful. An Alzheimer’s patient wandering can be dangerous for them and upsetting to the caregiver. Any information and preparation done in advance can help us keep them safer. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. It is always a good idea to install emergency medical alarm system for our elders. It can ensure 100% independence for them. It can help you in solving their need in time. With such devices, they will never need to get concerned about slips, falls or any other medical concerns.

    • Nan McAdam says:

      I agree. My mother-in-law has the kind of system which alerts the company when she has fallen without her having to push the button. This has made a huge difference. She has fallen and hit her head and been dazed, unable to push the button. She had emergency help right away. This can make all the difference in her independence and ability to stay in her home.

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