Did you ever get lost in a mall as a child? Or worse, did you ever lose track of your toddler while searching for that last item on your grocery list? Panic sets in as you start to look around, eyes searching for your little one. And then, a wave of relief washes over when you turn the corner and find him on his toddler tip-toes, reaching for the Pop-Tarts.

Almost every parent has been there, but it’s easy to forget that you may find yourself in a similar situation on down the road. This time, however, it’s a parent or aging loved one who wanders off, especially when dementia or Alzheimer’s is involved. 

Wandering and pacing are common behaviors when memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s set in. In a safe environment, wandering can be harmless and even enriching, especially  during the day in sight of others. It can help relieve anxiety and restlessness and can even be a good way to get in some exercise.

However, problems occur when a senior wanders away from home, paces at night or gets out of sight of a caregiver. In reality, nearly 60% of people suffering from Alzheimer’s will wander away from their homes and care facilities. Another thing to keep in mind is that fall is approaching and cold weather setting in. Seniors who have Alzheimer’s may not be dressed for the chilly weather, so keeping a close watch is even more important. Here are some helpful ways to  protect your wandering loved one: 

Senior Lost and Found Action Plan Suggestions:

  • Consider disguising the doors in your home – painting or hanging posters on the inside of doors to disguise them as bookshelves or other furniture can often deter a senior from attempting to walk out.
  • Install door chimes on all entry doors – this alerts those at home whenever a door is opened. This comes in handy especially in a two level home. Security systems also offer this type of alarm.
  • Alert your local authorities of the RISK of wandering - many local police stations maintain an Alzheimer’s and dementia patient “registry.” Caregivers provide personal information that would be critical in a search and rescue effort, such as name, height, weight, etc.
  • Caregivers should keep a list of previous homes, occupations – this is helpful if authorities need to search for a senior. Elderly with Alzheimer’s tend to recall former homes, occupations and other milestones as though they are present day.  Some seniors with dementia are wandering in attempt to “return to their roots.”
  • Utilize personal tracking devices - consider buying GPS devices that seniors can wear around their ankles, wrists or even in their shoes. 

Our CEO, Peter Ross, says that “A Senior Lost and Found Action Plan is especially critical for families with elderly loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's. That's why caregivers trained in Alzheimer's care can help families keep seniors active and engaged so they don't wander in the first place.”

How do you protect your loved ones from wandering?

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