Knowing the Risks of Wandering and How to Protect Your Parent with Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you are probably familiar with “wandering.” Wandering is a persistent behavior where a person with Alzheimer’s disease moves around the environment with seemingly no purpose or awareness of safety issues.
If you haven’t experienced it yet, it is a possibility in your future. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60% of elders with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point. They may wander outside, yet lack the ability to return home safely.
Wandering Safety Risks
When someone with Alzheimer’s disease wanders, they are at high risk for the following:
- Injuries due to falls when fatigued
- Accidents in traffic or from wandering into bodies of water
- Exposure to outdoor temperatures if improperly dressed
- Physical attack by others who may feel threatened or irritated by the elder’s behavior
- Medical issues due to missing medication if they are gone for an extended time
Reasons for Wandering
If you are caring for someone who is prone to wandering, understanding the reason behind it can help you find them more quickly. The longer a person is missing, the greater risk of injury.
Some reasons for wandering include:
- Wanting to go “home” even if they are already home. They may be referring to a past home, that they remember more clearly.
- Trying to fulfill a past duty, such as going to work or looking for a child
- Felling restless, anxious or agitated
- Experiencing difficulty locating their room, bathroom, kitchen or dining room
- Reacting to a new or changed environment
Steps to Prevent Wandering in Alzheimer’s Disease
- Establish a regular route
- Provide rest areas and safe places to wander
- Accompany the elder
- Provide food and fluid
- Redirect interest to other activities or objects
- Determine if behavior is due to environmental stress
- Camouflage the door or doorknob leading outside
- Install slide locks out of line of vision (either at top or bottom of doors and windows)
- Install monitoring devices that signal when a door is opened
- Provide supervision – do not leave the elder at home alone
- Enroll the elder in the MedicAlert and Safe Return Program
- Provide neighbors and local emergency responders with a recent picture of the elder and inform them of the elder’s condition
- Purchase an identification bracelet or necklace that will alert others of the elder’s condition and family contact information
- Consider GPS devices in footwear if wandering is a regular occurence
- Consider hacking child proofing devices to keep your caree safe. For example, door knob safety covers are challenging for someone with arthritis or cognitive problems to open. You can also put safety locks on drawers that hold knives or car keys.
Hopefully these safety tips will help you protect your caree from wandering. The responsibility of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is more than most people can imagine. Once you have a routine and system in place, please, try to care for yourself and take time away from your caree.