The first step to prevent Alzheimer’s wandering is to understand common risks. Many people with dementia wandering symptoms have spatial orientation problems that cause them to get lost easily. They have trouble recognizing surroundings that were previously familiar to them and may ask to go home even when they are in the home.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia will wander, and “…if a person is not found within 24 hours, up to half of the individuals will suffer serious injury or death.”
The signs and symptoms of dementia wandering
There are several ways to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia wandering, but first, it starts with the family. It’s essential to understand the different signs and symptoms that indicate a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be at risk of wandering. Some of them include the following:
- Returns home from a drive or walk later than usual
- Has Alzheimer’s disease but tries to leave home to go to work
- Paces around the house or is restless
- Has difficulty finding the bathroom or bedroom in the home
- Becomes anxious in crowded places like restaurants or stores
- Repeats motions but gets nothing done, like moving dishes around the kitchen but never puts them away or cleans them
How to prevent Alzheimer’s wandering
If your loved one exhibits signs and symptoms of elderly wandering, you will need to make your home safe for him or her. A geriatric care manager can help to conduct an assessment of your loved one and the house. He or she can make specific recommendations and design plans that prevent Alzheimer’s wandering. These suggestions can include:
- Develop an exercise plan appropriate for your loved one’s physical condition. Exercise can help a person to move around and reduce restlessness.
- Create a daily schedule to make sure your loved one is well fed and hydrated. Hunger, thirst, and other basic needs such as needing to go to the bathroom can increase agitation and anxiety.
- Avoid trips to busy places that can create confusion and fear. Activities can be adjusted, for example, going out to a tiny coffee shop is better than going to the food court at a mall.
- Help the family to create a safe home by indicating a safe hiding place for car keys and placing deadbolts on doors that are out of reach for the loved one with dementia.
- If the home has a security system, make sure the doors and windows alarm when opened. If the house does not have a security system, placing bells on above the doors or on the door handles can help to notify others in the home that the loved one with dementia is leaving the house.
Importantly, the care manager can help find elderly wandering resources for the family so that the loved one is never left home alone.
One important note: The Alzheimer’s Association encourages individuals and families coping with wandering to enroll in MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, a nationwide identification program designed to assist in the return of those who wander and become lost.
Wandering can be very dangerous to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to do everything possible to find the best solutions. A Life Care Manager at LivHOME can help families strategize and accomplish these essential tasks.