Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for caretakers to prevent wandering

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 8:59 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - You may have noticed more “Silver Alerts” issued lately. They’re issued by law enforcement when someone 60 or older has dementia or other cognitive impairment goes missing.

Wandering can be a significant cause of concern for caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients.

Alzheimer’s Association’s Vice President of Programs Sarah Lovegreen says one of the ways to reduce the risk is having a structured day with planned activities, including physical activity.

”If they have that desire to go walking and exercising, they’ve had an opportunity to do that,” Lovegreen says. “I know we kind of look for other activities of daily living may be that someone can get involved with that’s physical. They can help fold laundry. They can help prepare dinner versus sitting idly by.”

Lovegreen says if a family member talks about the need to go somewhere or see someone, that can be a red flag.

Lovegreen recommends asking them questions about those needs.

“Kind of get them talking a little bit and allow them to live into that and then as the opportunity presents itself, maybe re-direct,” Lovegreen says. “We can get to work after we have dinner. Why don’t we get dinner ready first, and then you kind of get involved in another activity.”

Mark Applegate experienced this firsthand with his mom. One of the reasons his family started considering a nursing home, she lived within a few blocks of a highway.

“So many caregivers are sleeping with one eye open,” Applegate says. “I mean consciously or unconsciously. Every little sound they hear, it’s oh, my loved one must be up.”

One thing he recommends is talking to your neighbors about this so they can keep an eye out.

“If you see my mom wandering around the neighborhood, here’s my cell phone,” Applegate says. “Put it on a card for them or a couple of cards for them, so they know how to get a hold of you. That happens way too frequently, so the more people you can have in a neighborhood watch sort of thing for you, the better.”

Lovegreen suggests putting locks above or below the line of sight, making it harder for them to figure out how to get outside.

“There’s some older school technology that if a seal was broken and a magnet was broken, a tone would release that would alert somebody that someone left home, or you can also do that digitally now with rings,” Lovegreen says. “It wouldn’t necessarily release that tone and alert the individual trying to get out, but it would alert the caregiver.”

Lovegreen recommends keeping them out of sight and in a locked drawer when it comes to car keys. Lovegreen says the Alzheimer’s Association will do one-on-one consultations with families at their homes to help implement safety plans.

CLICK here for more information on wandering.

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