Tips for Dementia Patients who Wander

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lost.jpgWandering can be an issue for many seniors, especially those with dementia or autism, and it can be a cause of concern for m​any home caregivers. Everyone wanders to some degree, of course, but in elderly patients with dementia, wandering can be dangerous. A person may leave the house suddenly without a caregiver being aware of it and may quickly end up confused or frightened because of unfamiliar surroundings.

Caregivers know that it’s important to balance safety concerns and wandering safeguards with quality of life issues for the patient. Finding the right strategy for each individual case can be tricky. Below are some tips which can be helpful in preventing wandering.

Consider one’s exits. Installing locks on outer doors that require a key for opening from the inside can ensure that a person with dementia does not wander; however, that can create a safety hazard in the event of an emergency. It also may create fear, frustration, or anxiety in a person with dementia who attempts to open the door but cannot. An alternative might be to equip the exit doors with a sound-based system which operates when the door is opened. This could be an electronic “beeping” installation or a simple bell. In some cases, placing a large “Stop” sign on the door may help to prevent the patient from exiting.

Look for causes. If a patient wanders at night, it may simply be due to thirst. Placing a glass of water by the bed may help to alleviate this issue.

Talk to neighbors. If a patient should never be off the property alone, it can be helpful to talk to neighbors and ask them to please call you if they see your loved one wandering.

Consider monitors. There are a number of electronic monitoring devices which can be handy for locating a loved one. Some make a sound so that locating an individual is easier; others have actual guidance devices that help pinpoint a wanderer’s location.

Make sure the patient is always easily identifiable. When the patient is dressed every morning, make sure to include some form of identification – possibly in the pockets or sewn right into the clothing. It’s also a good idea to dress the patient in easily identifiable clothing – very bright colors, for example. This is especially important if there are plans to go someplace crowded where the patient and caregiver might get easily separated.

Wandering is a common challenge in caring for those with dementia. Working to prevent wandering will make life easier for both patient and caregiver.

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