Dementia and Wandering WomanThe recent blizzard in New England has put many people at risk, but people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are some of the most vulnerable.

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you probably know the statistics. 60% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease will wander off at some point. Wandering off in a snow storm can be fatal. Finding them within hours is critical to their safe return.

What can caregivers do to manage wandering and keep a loved safe?

Our Dementia and Memory Care team offers you our top five tips:

  1. Many researchers believe Alzheimer’s-related wandering is linked to a person’s inability to communicate what they need. Your Mom may wander off in search of food, hydration or to find a bathroom. If those needs are monitored more closely, the risk of her wandering may be reduced.
  2. Some of the best memory and dementia care communities utilize methods to prevent wandering in Alzheimer’s residents that can easily be adapted to a home environment. Place “Stop” signs or “Do Not Enter” signs on exit doors. To help her find the bathroom, place a brightly colored “Bathroom” sign on the door or near the entrance. A dark black mat in front of an exit door can also act as a deterrent. Mom may see the mat as a hole and avoid going near it.
  3. Over-stimulation can cause someone living with Alzheimer’s to become agitated and pace. They aren’t able to process background noises, loud music and a crowded or busy environment. Keeping the atmosphere around them calm and peaceful may keep them from pacing and wandering off.
  4. Surround your loved one with familiar things like their favorite chair and bedroom furnishings, magazines they may have enjoyed reading, or family photos. It may require you to dig out old photos from when they were younger to help them remember. Caregivers often share that their loved one seems to be trying to “get back home” when they wander. So filling their personal space with their own mementos may help.
  5. Assume wandering will occur at some point and be prepared. Invest in a personal monitor with GPS. You may never need it. But it only takes one instance of wandering for something terrible to happen. Keep a description and current photo of your family member in both print and digital formats. That will allow a Silver Alert to be issued if needed.

What methods have you found to be helpful in managing wandering?

Have you invested in a Personal Locator yet?