One of the scariest thing a caregiver fears is a loved one who suffers from dementia wandering away. 60 percent of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease tend to wander if left unattended or unnoticed. The alarming news is that if they are not found within 24 hours; dehydration or injury may occur, and half these patients may die. What are some signs of wandering behavior; how can you reduce it in your loved one, and what measures can you take to make sure your loved one stays safe?
Signs of wandering behavior
There are some signs of the beginning of wandering behavior before it is fully developed. If you notice any or all of these signs, you may want to pay closer attention to your loved one and where he or she is.
- If your loved one comes back from a drive later than he or she usually does, or from a walk that regularly doesn’t take that long. Also, if your loved one seems a little confused about how long he or she was gone; or even where your senior exactly was.
- If your loved one decides to get up and go to work or to a former obligation even though he or she is retired or no longer obligated. Your loved one may even argue with you about it; insisting he or she has to leave.
- If your loved one wants to “go home” even though he or she is at home.
- If your loved one is restless or pacing back and forth. Or if he or she makes continuous repetitive movements without a break.
- If your loved ones seem disoriented and can’t locate familiar places; like where the bathroom is, the kitchen or the bedroom.
- Your loved acts as if he or she is doing a hobby or a chore but actually isn’t doing anything, such as crocheting but the yarn isn’t moving.
How to help reduce the risk of your loved one from wandering
- To help your loved one reduce anxiety, agitation or restlessness; have him or her move around and exercise.
- Check and make sure your loved one doesn’t have to use the bathroom; isn’t hungry or thirsty
- If your loved one is expressing that he or she feels lost, abandoned; or seems disoriented, give reassurance.
- Keep to a routine and structure; have him or her fold laundry or help you prepare dinner.
- Avoid places which could cause disorientation such as shopping malls, large crowds and busy areas
- Make sure there are deadbolts placed high and low on exterior doors. Also be sure to keep car keys out of reach because a person with dementia does not just wander on foot.
Protecting your loved one
There is new technology which can help keep track of your loved one if he or she wanders. It’s a GPS tracking system which can track your loved one if he or she becomes confused, lost or injured. The tracking device can be in a bracelet, which can be locked on the loved one; or a watch which has a cell phone and a tracking device. A third option is a GPS shoe. When people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia have something unfamiliar on an arm, they will try to take it off. However, if the tracking device is in a generic looking sneaker; then the shoe doesn’t make your senior uneasy, and it will be worn. With this device, when your loved one wanders past the established boundaries, the tracking device sends a live signal to the central monitoring station. This tells the exactly where the person is located and if help needs to be sent.
Keeping your loved one safe is always part of elder care but having some safeguards in place is always helpful in cases of wandering.
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