Capital of Texas Chapter on the News!

See our Communications and Programs Specialist share some information about wandering!

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Read some of the key takeaways from the interview, plus more tips on modifying the home for safety!

Not all people with Alzheimer’s wander.  About 60% of people with Alzheimer’s wander, but not all of these people are exit-seeking wanderers.

Wandering is a form of communication. Though wandering may appear to be aimless, often the person is driven to meet an unmet need.  They may be hungry, need to use the bathroom, are feeling bored, overstimulated, confused, or they have an impulse to meet a responsibility from their earlier life.  For example, a woman might be more likely to get restless and wander around 3:00pm, because that would have been when she needed to pick her kids up from school.  If you can meet their need or anticipate it, wandering becomes less of a problem.

Thinking ahead can prevent wandering.  People with Alzheimer’s do best with a highly structured day.  Try to keep them occupied, especially during the times of day when they usually tend to wander.  Making sure your loved one gets some exercise will release pent up energy and promote a full night’s sleep.  If they appear worried or frightened while wandering, they probably feel lost, reassure and redirect them.  Anticipate their physical needs and other triggers, and help them from getting lost in their own home by labeling rooms with pictures, such as a toilet on the bathroom door.

Make your home safe for a person who wanders. Reduce the risk of falling by removing clutter, extension cords, throw rugs and other obstructions in walkways.  Keep hallways illuminated by night lights for those who get up during the night.  Ensure that all dangerous objects, including kitchen knives, toxic chemicals, and guns are inaccessible to the person with Alzheimer’s.  Install door alarms, and locks high up on a door, where they are out of sight and reach.  People with Alzheimer’s lose their visual processing abilities, so consider camouflaging doors by painting or wallpapering them to match the walls around them.  Another common trick is to place a dark carpet in front of the door – people with Alzheimer’s often won’t walk over it because they perceive it to be a hole.  Keep car keys in a place where the person with Alzheimer’s can’t find them.

Plan ahead for an emergency. If your loved one wanders and you’re concerned about them getting lost, consider outfitting them with ID jewelry and enrolling them in the Medic+Alert/Safe Return program, or having them wear a GPS device, like the one offered through Comfort Zone.  Keep a recent photo of your loved one and their current medical records on hand.  Alert your neighbors and local police to your loved one’s condition, and provide them with a current photo and a phone number where they can contact you.  If your loved one is missing, contact the police.  Investigate familiar places where the person might instinctively go, or search in the direction of the person’s dominant hand, because people tend to travel first in that direction.

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