As weather warms, wandering risk increases among persons with Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 60% of individuals with Alzheimer’s will wander and become lost at some point during the disease process, and that risk increases as the spring and summer months approach. If not found within 24 hours, at least half of those that become lost risk serious injury or even death.   

Many caregivers are faced with the question of what they can do to prevent this behavior in their loved one. Arden Courts, a memory care community in Westlake designed for persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, offers suggestions to caregivers on how to prevent wandering behavior.

One of the first things to consider is who is at risk. Even though an individual with Alzheimer’s has not wandered before does not mean they will not wander sometime in the future. Some of the behaviors to look for include: trying to "go home" even when the person is at home, having difficulty locating familiar places like the bathroom or bedroom, or appearing restless and pacing without a purpose.

It is also important to make sure that all basic needs are met (toileting, hunger, thirst, pain, etc.). Caregivers should also look at when the Alzheimer’s patient appears the most restless and plan activities or exercise around that time. Especially during the spring and summer months it is beneficial for those with dementia to get exercise to expend energy and taking a walk outside with a caregiver is the perfect form of exercise.

Another thing to consider when trying to prevent wandering is the home environment. Locks should be placed out of sight of the Alzheimer’s patient whenever possible to draw attention away from them. Doors can also be camouflaged by painting them the same color as the wall as another way to draw attention away. 

Warning bells and infant monitors can also be used to let a caregiver know that the person may be up wandering at night.  It’s also important for the Alzheimer’s patient to have an area that they can explore in both indoors and outdoors since many Alzheimer’s patients have the feeling of being confined or restricted as part of the disease process. By allowing the person free access to certain indoor and outdoor areas they will feel a sense of freedom which can decrease the desire to wander to areas that are not safe.    

It is also a good idea to have doors in the home labeled and use signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room. Also, when going out somewhere with the Alzheimer’s patient, make sure they are wearing brightly colored clothing and never leave a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia alone in a car.

Arden Courts also recommends that caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease enroll the individual in the Alzheimer’s Association Medic Alert + Safe Return program. Medic Alert + Safe Return is a nationwide identification system designed to assist in the safe return of people who may get lost if they have wandered away from home. For more information on Medic Alert + Safe Return please contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900.

Lisa Anthony

Marketing Director of Arden Courts Memory Care Community in Westlake

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Volume 4, Issue 6, Posted 11:51 AM, 03.20.2012