Anyone with a family member suffering from dementia knows about the potential for wandering off. The confusion, disorientation, and memory loss caused by this condition can lead to your loved ones feeling the need to try to leave, resulting in them walking around aimlessly or getting lost. This can naturally lead to potentially dangerous situations, as your family member could end up far from home, unable to remember how to return, and unable to remember any contact information to get a hold of you.
Wandering is an alarmingly common practice for dementia patients. Fortunately, you can help reduce the chances of your vulnerable loved ones accidentally wandering away and putting themselves in danger. Here are a few things you can do to mitigate the risks and find your loved ones quickly if they still become lost.
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Signs of Wandering Problems
Wandering can begin to occur in even the earliest stages of dementia, meaning you should know the signs to look out for in your elderly loved one ahead of time. Typical signs of wandering include forgetting everyday locations and how to get to them, being out on a walk or drive much later than normal, and restlessly tending to chores that are never finished.
Pro Tip: A senior with dementia who is focused on starting new hobbies and errands when they never get completed can greatly benefit from a structured daily schedule.
Wandering Prevention & Management
Learning how to prevent and manage wandering in someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s requires effective care and special attention to that person’s specific needs. The first step is to ensure their health needs are met. Are they eating a healthy diet? Getting enough sleep? Supervise your loved one and identify the times of day when wandering typically occurs for them. Managing these things and knowing how to communicate with a senior struggling with wandering will help to diminish the risk of danger.
What to Do in an Emergency
It should go without saying that if your loved one has struggled with wandering in the past, you should have a plan prepared in case of an emergency. The individual’s caregiver should be prepared with a list of emergency contacts, an outline of the vicinity they’re around with dangerous places to look out for, and some form of emergency support service is highly recommended. A person who does wander and go missing should be searched for immediately for 15 minutes–with ‘911’ being called to file a missing persons report if they aren’t found within that time.
Protect Your Loved Ones
A large part of safety for dementia patients is preventing them from wandering into potentially dangerous situations. With care and attention, you can drastically reduce the chances of your loved ones getting into danger and give them a safe, familiar environment in which they can continue to thrive.
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