According to the Alzheimer’s Association, around 60% of all people with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander. There are a number of reasons why. The person might be looking for something (or someone), get lost while walking, be trying to make his or her way home (while already at home), or just be bored.
We were fortunate that my mom, who had Alzheimer’s, didn’t wander. She always was a bit of a homebody, but that’s still no guarantee. Wandering can be dangerous, and therefore take a toll on your family (as if you don’t have enough to deal with). So it’s important to be vigilant about making sure someone with dementia doesn’t leave the house alone.
If you’re providing elder care at home, here are some things you can do to keep your wandering loved one from taking an unscheduled walking tour of Kansas City or Overland Park:
- Secure your home. Add new deadbolts and put them up high where they can’t be reached by the person who has dementia.
- Maintain a routine. Structure can help keep your loved one from veering off course.
- Be alert for possible triggers. Does Mom tend to want to leave the house after dinner? If so, take a walk with her.
- Make sure you’re meeting the person’s needs. For example, are you providing plenty of food, water and bathroom breaks? My mom had a thing about brushing her teeth, so she carried a toothbrush and toothpaste in her purse.
- Install signs and alarms. Add alarms to windows and doors. Put up signs that say, Stop” or “Do Not Enter.” Some people with dementia can still follow directions, so the signs may keep them from going outside.
- Hide the car keys. If you provide easy accessibility, your loved one may soon be cruising through Prairie Village.
- Avoid crowds. They may cause fear and confusion.
- Prevent boredom. Try to engage your loved one in activities that will keep him or her busy.
- Be prepared. Make sure the person with Alzheimer’s is carrying ID at all times. Keep pictures handy in case they’re needed, and make sure you know what your loved one is wearing at all times.
Care of the elderly can be tricky, especially when Alzheimer’s or dementia is involved. Some added home security measures and staving off boredom can be keys to keeping a senior from wandering.