Seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Why They Wander and How to Keep Them Safe
Don’t wait until it happens: be prepared to protect your loved one
It’s an alarming statistic—six in ten people with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander. This, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, is not only very normal behavior for people struggling with these conditions, it’s dangerous. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association also reports that if not found within 24 hours, up to half of these people will suffer serious injury or death.
If you’ve ever seen a silver alert on the news or you’ve witnessed this behavior first-hand with your senior family member, you understand the severity of wandering and the challenges of trying to prevent it. Here’s an overview that will explain why Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers wander and what you can do to ensure your loved one is safe:
Why do they wander?
Although it may appear that a senior is just aimlessly wandering, many times they do have a reason. Whether they’re trying to return to their childhood home (which may or may not be in the same state or even country), or they’re under the impression that they have an appointment, many times the wanderer is truly on a quest. That being said, there are other reasons for this behavior including:
• The longing to go “home”
How to keep them safe
Ensuring that your loved one remains safe is a definite challenge for anyone who’s caring for a senior who wanders. Even those who have a live-in home health aide have been known to get out of the house without notice, especially at night. The risks of this type of behavior are obvious, and despite what you may believe, whether they’re wandering by car or foot, it’s critical to have some safeguards in place to protect them from harm:
• Hire a caregiver who will reside with your loved one around the clock
• Alert neighbors that your loved one is at risk for wandering and provide them with contact information in the event they witness your family member leaving the home
• Enroll your loved one in your local silver alert or similar registry
• Relocate your loved one’s car at your home or another family member’s home
• Consider a memory care or assisted living facility
Consider tracking tools and technology
Sometimes, even after all precautions have been taken, a senior who is a practiced “escape artist” will still slip out unbeknownst to their family or caregiver and in these cases, tracking them down as quickly as possible can mean the difference between life and death. Here are some tools and technologies that you may want to consider:
• GPS tracking devices: These devices help track down a loved one who has wandered and provides their location
• Door alarms: There are numerous choices that include silent alarms that send a signal to a loved one or emergency personnel or an audio alarm that alerts a caregiver when the patient has left the building
• Tracking watches: Another type of GPS tracker, these watches can be programmed to alert family members or caregivers when the wearer has wandered outside of a predetermined safe zone
• Sole trackers: A discreet device that is placed inside your loved one’s shoe. If he or she ventures past their specified zone, an alert via text is sent to family members or caregivers with the exact location
• Pocket trackers: As small as a credit card, this waterproof device will provide you with your loved one’s location, what direction they’re traveling in, how close (in miles) you are to their location, and will update you via text or email as changes occur. It also offers the ability to preprogram several “geo-fences” and will alert you when your loved one has traveled outside of them.
Wandering among seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s is a growing problem in the United States. If you have a family member who is struggling with either of these conditions, or you are concerned that he or she is already beginning to wander, the time to take action is right away.
For more information about issues that affect your senior loved one, please visit our blog often. And, if you would like guidance on choosing the right products to keep him or her safe in their own, give us a call for personalized assistance.