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Dealing with Alzheimer’s Patients Who Wander

cane.pngNovember is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. According to an acticle on CNN.com, about 60% of the nation’s 5 million Alzheimer’s patients will wander – a huge risk to many Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones.

It may not be possible to keep an eye on your loved once 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But we found that this article offered a few tips to help decrease the likelihood that an Alzheimer’s patient may wander.

Keep wandering top of mind: With family members are concerned with other aspects of the disease, such as leaving the stove on or asking the same questions over and over again, it’s easy to forget that wandering can be a risk.

Pick up on the red flags of wandering: Wandering often happens when someone with dementia is in unfamiliar surroundings. They may leave clues that they are about to wander, such as, “It’s time to go to work,” or “I want to go home.”

Distract them: If they do mention that they need to go to work, don’t try to reason with them. Try to distract them by saying, “Let’s go find your shoes.” Usually, by the time they find their shoes, they will have forgotten about going to work.

Block or disguise the exits: Never lock or trap a person with dementia in a home alone. You can block the doors with screens that disguise the fact that it’s a door. You can put a lock at the bottom of the door. You can put a mirror or stop sign on the door. You can also try putting a dark rug in front of the door. People with late-stage dementia will think it’s a hole and won’t go near it.

Label your rooms: The Mayo Clinic suggests putting a picture of a toilet on the door to the bathroom or food on the door to the kitchen. This can help those with Alzheimer’s more easily find what they need.

Keep them busy: Watching television for hours at a time can cause some patients to become bored. Keep them busy with tasks such as washing dishes or folding clothes. Adult day care programs can also provide interesting activities for them.

Take a walk: Walking and exercising can keep Alzheimer’s patients active and may keep them from wandering in search of company.

Consider technology: GPS devices can be attached to a loved one’s bracelet or in a shoe. You can then go online to track them if they do wander. Some alarm systems alert you if a door is opened in the house. The Alzheimer’s Association has an overview of electronic devices that can help keep track of patients.

Find the right facility: Sometimes a family is not able to keep their loved one with dementia at home. There are nursing homes and assisted living facilities that can help, but it’s important to research and see if the facilities have had problems with patients wandering if doors are monitored either electronically or by staff.