Alzheimer’s and Wandering: Why It Happens and How to Help
Out of all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps one of the most concerning is the individual’s tendency for wandering and the potential dangers that may occur in the event that the senior becomes disoriented or lost. Wandering can take place any time the older adult is:
• Scared, confused or overwhelmed
• Trying to find someone or something
• Trying to keep a familiar past routine (such as going to a job or shopping)
• Taking care of a basic need (such as looking for a glass of water or going to the bathroom)
The goal is twofold; to keep the senior secure, as well as to make certain his or her needs are met to try and prevent the need to wander. Try the following safety precautions in the event your loved one is prone to wander:
• Be sure that the home is equipped with a security system and locks that the senior is unable to master, such as a sliding bolt lock above his / her range of vision. A variety of alarms are available, from something as easy as placing a bell over doorknobs, to highly-sensitive pressure mats which will sound an alarm when stepped on, to GPS products that may be worn, and many more. It’s also recommended that you sign up for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
• Disguise exits by covering doors with curtains, setting up non-permanent folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You could also try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes dissuade those in the earlier stages of dementia from attempting to exit.
• An additional risk for seniors with Alzheimer’s who wander is the elevated risk of falling. Have a look at each room of the house and address any tripping concerns, such as eliminating throw rugs, electrical cords, and any hindrances that may be blocking walkways, adding extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
It is important to bear in mind that with guidance and direction, wandering is not necessarily a challenge. Take a stroll with each other outside if the weather allows and the senior is in the state of mind to be on the move, providing the extra benefit of fresh air, physical exercise, and quality time together.
While often hard to manage, the dementia care team at CareWorks Health Services is specially trained to be equally vigilant and proactive in deterring wandering and to incorporate creative tactics to help seniors with dementia remain relaxed and happy. Email or call (949) 859-4700 for more information about our dementia care and other home health services in Huntington Beach, CA and the surrounding areas.