According to statistics, six of ten people with dementia are prone to wandering. This is alarming because a person with Alzheimer’s cannot find their way back or can become disoriented along the way. But it should be noted that not only people with Alzheimer’s are known to wander. It affects conditions like Down syndrome, autism, and those suffering brain illnesses. Wandering is a result of stress, boredom, and an eagerness to follow previous routines. Nonetheless, this is a very dangerous activity and should be prevented beforehand.
If you happen to be a caregiver of someone who often wanders off, the never-ending anxiety of it happening at a time you don’t expect at all is very much existent every day. There are numerous dangers awaiting those suffering the conditions mentioned when they are left on their own, so it is best to be prepared and equipped with all the knowledge needed to prevent it and know what to do when it actually happens.
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Merely relying on keeping a close eye on them is not enough. Even expert caregivers with years of experience find it difficult to prevent people with Alzheimer’s from wandering. Securing your home and getting a reliable GPS tracking device like most people do nowadays are all helpful methods in keeping the patient safe.
Learn more about these through the tips compiled below.
1. Secure their house or area
Install high or low doors and place slide bolts either on the top or the bottom to keep them away from the patient’s reach. There are various devices in the market that you can use to alert you if someone crosses them. An example of which is pressure sensitive alarm mat which you can strategically place in all exits of their home. Simple bells can be used on doors as well and then there are motion detectors that can alert people when the outer door is opened. You can also install new locks on your doors and windows so the patient cannot open them easily.
2. Patients with memory problems must have an identification card at all times
This step may not entirely prevent them from wandering, but it does help in case the patient goes outside the premises. Make sure that the identification card is worn and not just left dangling around the neck or placed in the wallet. There are specialized medical ID that can be used and they come in different forms like bracelets or pendants. See to it that this contains all the necessary information about the patient, including their home address and emergency contact person.
3. Dress patients in distinct clothing
Children with autism or elderly folks can be dressed in comfortable and bright clothes. This is useful when taking them to crowded public areas so in case they get lost in the crowd, parents or caregivers can easily spot them.
4. Fence the whole area
No doubt about it, the worst thing about wandering is the risk of accident especially when the patient is out in an open road. At the same time, caregivers should consider the fact that protecting their patients from wandering does not mean locking them in the house, ensure that they get proper exercise and fresh air in a safe environment by fencing the perimeter area.
5. Use an effective GPS Tracking Device
Let patients wear a GPS tracking device that is capable of sending alerts of their location to you. Trackimo is one of the most reliable products in the market today, with features such as setting a perimeter while alerting you if the subject crosses it and a mobile application that gives you up-to-date notifications about their whereabouts.
6. Inform the people around you
If you happen to be living with a family member that often wanders off and gets lost, then make sure that the people in your neighborhood are aware of their condition and introduce them to the people near you personally. Give out your phone number so they can reach you in case they notice your family member wandering on their own. The more trusted people know, the more chances you have in keeping your loved ones safe.
7. Place signs around the house
Hanging stop or Do Not Enter signs on the door are enough to prevent them from walking around unsupervised. Make sure these signs have bold designs and comprehensible lettering. Since most elderly folks cannot read, the color red is enough to indicate a no entry sign.
8. Make sure they get lots of exercise and physical activity
As stated, wandering may stem from restlessness and boredom. If possible, make sure they get to do a lot of physical activities especially during the day and make sure you are there to supervise all this. Getting their body active throughout the day helps prevent patients from getting agitated or experiencing anxiety particularly during the night.
9. Make sure they get plenty of rest
Poor sleep quality can result in wandering for some cases. To address this, make a sleep schedule that will give them adequate time for rest and for time spent awake. Caffeinated drinks are not recommended for people who are prone to wandering. Make sure they get a lot of rest every day and you’ll be able to reduce the chances of them wandering.
10. Understand the underlying cause of wandering
Wandering may not be controlled, but there are numerous things that trigger them from happening in the first place. Anything from physical needs such as hunger or thirst is enough for patients to open the door and head out. Other situations may involve a chore that they feel they need to do (example: picking up the groceries) or when they are looking for an item they left several years ago. As for children with autism or developmental problems, they do have this tendency to be easily distracted to the point that they don’t notice that they have been following this object and get lost along the way. Either way, it all boils down to empathy and resorting to measures to prevent them getting harmed.
The best thing caregivers can do is to create a plan. This should involve the things you do to prevent them from wandering and the actions needed in case it actually happens. Make sure you have emergency phone numbers like 911 ready for all types of situations, and research on some local groups that can aid you in doing so.