Leo and Diane were wonderful people who cared for Diane’s father, Robert, in their home. In the years they cared for him, Robert was always smartly dressed, clean-shaven, and content. Despite their excellent care, the community was shocked to discover one morning that Robert had left their home and wandered into the woods one cold winter’s night. He had succumbed to hypothermia.
The Alzheimer’s Association shares this sobering fact: more than 60 percent of people with dementia will wander from their homes. Therefore, if you are caring for someone in your home, this may likely become a reality. Happily, there are warning signs that wandering may soon occur, and there are ways to prevent your loved one from wandering and from being harmed if they do.
Some warning signs your loved one may be prone to wander:
- Starting to forget names and recent events, or get confused or lost in their own home.
- Performing tasks which don’t make sense, such as “pretending” too cook: moving pots and pans around without accomplishing anything.
- Become restless and pace about.
- Expressing a desire to fulfill a long-abandoned routine, such as going to work or caring for the lawn.
The Mayo Clinic and Alzheimer’s Association share excellent advice on preventing your loved one from leaving the safety of their home.
Here is what you can do:
- Routines: Let your loved one be involved in simple routine tasks throughout the day. Folding laundry, setting the table, or simple cleaning tasks, when done daily, can give a sense of structure and safety to their lives. Unfamiliar places or people may bring them tremendous stress, so be alert to their reactions, and limit exposure.
- Help them rest well: Try to encourage plenty of activity during the day, and keep napping to a minimum.
- Out of sight, out of mind: Hide keys and jackets. Disguise doors; some have hung a curtain, covered the doorknob, or have found that hanging a mirror on the door will prevent a person from leaving. Deadbolt locks are best installed above or below a person’s line of sight.
Despite your very best efforts, your worst fears may still occur, so be prepared. Make sure your neighbors are aware so they can intervene if they see your loved one alone outside. The Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program is also worth investigating: it provides a fitted ID bracelet as well as 24-hour emergency response services.
If you are a caregiver, you are already showing that you have tremendous concern and compassion. Since this article is not a comprehensive discussion of the subject, please take some to educate yourself on this common problem and put into place a plan of action. You will be doing yourself a favor and of course, protecting those you love.
We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Baton Rouge, please call us at 225.819.8338 or email us. Most long-term care insurance policies will reimburse us for our services and we have a team of over 200 bonded and insured CAREGivers covering the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area.
- 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s by Alzheimer’s Association (mariadorfner.wordpress.com)
- GPS shoes help Alzheimer’s patients, caretakers (cbsnews.com)