Many people with dementia often wander from familiar surroundings and doing so in extremely cold temperatures can be deadly. There are steps that can be taken to lessen the danger for the person, and avoid anxiety for family members.
The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter can provide valuable resources and information for those with dementia and their loved ones, including ideas for preventing behaviors that could be dangerous, such as wandering from home.
“Watch for triggers, such as increased agitation, fidgeting or pacing, which can indicate a loved one with dementia wants to leave,” advises Gail Roddie-Hamlin, Chapter President and CEO. “We advise caregivers and family members to acknowledge the feelings their loved one may be experiencing and redirect him or her to a new activity or environment, such as a different room.”
Improving safety in the home is critical as well. The Chapter suggests motion alarms, which are available at any home supply store, can be easily installed on a door. Moving locks to a higher position on a door where they are out-of-reach is also easy and effective. Also, camouflaging doors with curtains can divert a person from opening it and leaving. Other suggestions include sticking to a routine or schedule of activities, which can be helpful in keeping those with dementia from becoming overly stimulated and overwhelmed.
Wandering is unpredictable and it usually occurs because of disorientation caused by the disease. It is critical for caregivers to seek assistance as soon as they realize their loved one has left the home. Immediately call 911 and indicate there is a missing vulnerable person. Having pictures of the missing person, and a description of his or her clothing, is also very important and asking friends and neighbors to join in the search or sharing the information through social media, can also be beneficial.
Finally, register with a medical alert program, such as “Safe Return,” which aids first responders by providing them with immediate links to your loved one’s caregivers, medical records, and the Alzheimer's Association.
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