Mental health groups across the world report that as many as 60 percent of people with dementia, a condition with decreased memory or mental ability, will wander and may get lost. Alzheimer's disease, stroke, head injuries and other health issues that involve dementia can all lead patients to stroll away from familiar surroundings. As the trained home healthcare caregivers of Right at Home know, wandering is preventable with the right safeguards in place.
Specific wandering risk signs to watch for include:
- Restlessness, pacing or repetitive movement
- Difficulty with locating familiar places like a bedroom or bathroom
- A desire to "go home" even when already at home
- Attempting to go to work or to fulfill former obligations
- Inquiring about the whereabouts of past or current family and friends
Safeguards to prevent wandering include:
- Addressing the underlying cause of wandering. Is your ageing loved one waking up hungry or thirsty? Are certain sounds triggering a need to investigate outdoors?
- Assessing the time(s) of day when a person is most prone to wander. Plan extra activities or exercise during these periods to decrease the restlessness and anxiety of wanting to leave.
- Securing your home with hard-to-access door and window locks (place locks high or low on exterior doors or add slide bolts). Or, place motion detectors on outer doors or hang bells on doorknobs.
- Using monitoring devices such as jewelry or bracelets with radio transmitters.
- Involving neighbours. Introduce your ageing loved one to neighbours and give them a phone number to call in case they see your loved one aimlessly out and about. Also, be sure your loved one always wears an ID bracelet or pendant, or sew identification tags inside clothing.
How do you keep an ageing loved one with dementia from wandering?