Caregiver Help For Elderly Who WanderPosted on July 18, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Caregiving, Dementia Care, Home Care Non-Medical
Caring for those who wander
By: Lynda Shrager, Mom’s Rx
A major concern of caregivers who are responsible for those with cognitive problems is how to keep them safe if they begin to wander. Wandering is most often associated with dementia (as manifested in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, head injuries and stroke), but also may be symptomatic of patients with autism or Down syndrome.
Just this week I had a patient’s daughter call me in a panic, as she had woken up to find her mother opening the front door at 2 a.m. Clearly this behavior is anxiety-producing, as the best caregiver in the world cannot watch someone 24/7. There are, however, some things we can do to lessen the prevalence of wandering and keep our loved ones safe.
The first thing is to secure your home. Locks may be raised above eye level, chimes or motion detectors can alert when the doors are opened. Signs on the door such as “Do Not Enter” or “Stop” may just be enough to discourage opening it. A fence around the property with secure locks on the outside can allow for enjoying the fresh air.
I recently reviewed the book ”Confidence to Care, A Resource for Family Caregivers Providing Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias Care at Home” (Molly Carpenter, Home Instead Press, 2013), which has a chapter devoted to wandering It notes that the person may have an unmet need that is causing the symptom such as thirst, hunger, physical restlessness, needing to go to the bathroom or simply boredom. Addressing this need could help to alleviate the behavior.
I know this is easier said than done, as your loved one may not be able to vocalize the needs. To divert dad’s wandering behavior, Carpenter suggests trying to get out for a car ride, as a change in scenery might help. You might say, “I’m sorry we didn’t get out for a walk today since it was raining. Why don’t we go for a car ride instead?”
Prepare ahead for a wandering incident by registering your loved one in a program that is designed for rescue. There are secure databases such as “Silver Alert,” a public notification system that broadcasts information about missing persons throughout the country. Make sure your loved one has ID on him at all times. Medical ID jewelry may be more effective than sewing their name on clothes or placing ID in a wallet, as it is harder to remove the jewelry. MedicAlert and the Alzheimer’s Association teamed up to create a 24-hour emergency response for people who wander.
There are also programs that feature personal tracking devices. AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Education) and LoJack SafetyNet feature radio frequency devices to help rescue lost individuals.
Mom’s Rx is to organize ahead to keep wanderers safe:
• ”Confidence to Care” recommends redirecting a loved one who is trying to leave into an activity that they used to enjoy.
• Hide ”triggers” that might encourage wandering such as coats and boots.
• Alert your neighbors so they may be on the lookout if they see your loved one in the neighborhood. Have a current picture and description of your loved one, should you need to report him or her missing.
• If your loved one goes missing, immediately call 911 before running out into the neighborhood to look yourself.