Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Offers Safety Tips for Caregivers to Protect their Loved Ones with Dementia from Wandering
(January 22, 2020) – Cold temperatures, freezing wind chill and snow, and ice are common in many parts of the country during the winter months, but they can pose an added danger to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses who are prone to wandering, a common behavior associated with these illnesses. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing tips to help caregivers reduce the chances of their loved one wandering and ensure that they are prepared if an emergency arises.
“Someone with a dementia-related illness who wanders can quickly become disoriented, unable to return to safety or not know how, or who, to call for help. Freezing winter temperatures make these situations even more dangerous,” said AFA President & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. “By being proactive, family caregivers can help lessen the chances that their loved one will wander and ensure that they are better prepared to react quickly if an incident occurs.”
What caregivers should watch for
Wandering often stems from an unmet need or desire for purpose and is sometimes a form of communication (individuals may have difficulty expressing themselves with words as the disease progresses). Issues to watch out for include:
• social disengagement
• boredom or pain
• hunger or thirst
• in need of a restroom
• emotional distress
• searching for something from the present or past
What caregivers can do
• Pay attention to the individual’s patterns (frequency, duration, time of day, etc.), and prepare activities that can be used to redirect their attention, as needed.
• Provide opportunities for socialization and engagement for the individual. Keeping busy can help to stimulate and engage. Consider recreational or other therapeutic activities, such as art or music.
• Ensure the person’s basic needs (food, beverages, restroom, etc.) are met.
• Use medical identification bracelets, necklaces, and tracking devices for monitoring.
• Install electronic chimes or doorbells on doors so someone is alerted if the individual tries to exit; but be mindful of how this alert can impact the individual.
• Reduce environmental stimuli, such as loud noises or crowds, which can be disorienting.
How to be prepared
• Know the individual’s past and present favorite spots in the area. In the event they wander from home, this will help when looking for them.
• Ensure current photographs of the individual and their medical information are available.
• Check to see if your municipality has a Project Lifesaver program, designed to protect and quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders. Project Lifesaver uses locating devices to aid in the search and rescue of individuals.
• Familiarize yourself with your state’s public alert (Silver Alert) service, a notification system that broadcasts information about missing persons—especially individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive disorders—in order to solicit aid in locating them. Understand how to contact your police department and how to call 911 in an emergency situation.
• Keep a list of local hospitals in case the individual is admitted to one.
• Know the individual’s phone carrier and number to track them by phone.
Families affected by Alzheimer’s disease who have questions or need support can contact AFA’s National Toll-Free Helpline at 866-232-8484 and speak with a licensed social worker or connect through the Internet at www.alzfdn.org
. The helpline is open seven days a week.
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