Wandering is a not-uncommon feature of memory loss and dementia. When our loved ones get confused or disoriented, when they fail to recognize where they are, or when they forget what they’re doing, they might start to wander in search of something they do recognize or remember.
Stats show that six in 10 people with dementia are prone to wandering.
The good news is that it’s a well-known phenomenon, and there are strategies that we can employ to keep our loved ones as safe as possible. Here are some ideas:
Maintain routine. An established routine of certain activities at certain times — especially during those times your loved one is most prone to wander, such as in the evenings — can go a long way toward preventing spontaneous exits.
Discourage exit. Wandering isn’t a well-planned activity, and thus placing a few cognitive barriers can reduce the likelihood of wandering. For example, locks on exterior doors should be placed out of sight. Car keys, too, should be kept somewhere safe, not on the kitchen counter where a loved one might spot them and leave during a moment of confusion. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a helpful home-safety checklist full of great advice.
Use technology. Devices are available that can help to track your loved ones if they leave the house. The local Alzheimer Society of Washington, for example, has a program called Project Lifesaver through which it hands out free bracelets that can be worn by wanderers. The bracelets use radio frequency to keep tabs on a person’s location. The bracelets are free, but there’s a $15 monthly fee for the batteries and changing. Other tech options also are available, and some combination of various ideas might be best for you.
Rely on others. Wandering can be especially dangerous at night, when the rest of the house is asleep. That’s one reason why Take My Hand At-Home Care offers overnight and even 24-hour shifts, so loved ones can sleep while our caregiver companions watch the home and ensure everyone is kept as safe, healthy and happy as possible. We’re a locally owned and operated eldercare provider seeking to help the people of Whatcom County live their best lives.
Remember that wandering can be common among loved ones with dementia, but with planning and support from those around you, it’s manageable. For additional guidance and support, feel free to contact Take My Hand At-Home Care.