Practical Ways To Keep Your Senior Safe From Wandering

By Ruby Cemental

More than 3 out of 5 Alzheimer's and other dementia sufferers will wander. If you are a senior caregiver for someone who suffers from dementia, that undoubtedly concerns you very much. However, although the statistics are high, there are many things you can do to keep your senior safe. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Pay Attention to Clues

Your loved one will often drop clues that they feel the need to go outdoors without you. Here are some examples of clues:

  • Are they asking to go home when they are already at home?

  • Seniors may think they are neglecting previous obligations like going to work or picking up the kids. Listen for verbal clues about what your senior thinks they need to be doing. 

  • If they are having difficulty finding familiar areas of the home, like the bathroom or kitchen, it is possible they might venture outdoors to find what they need.

  • Is your loved one hungry? Thirsty? A senior with Alzheimer's or dementia may wander if they are trying to fulfill their own basic needs. 

Make the Home Safe

Seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia may wander. If your home isn't safe, this wandering can cause them to fall or incur another injury. Here are some ways to keep your home and your loved one safe.

  • Never leave car keys lying around. Even if they haven't driven in years, your loved one might forget that they shouldn't get behind the wheel.

  • If possible, set up motion detectors or other devices that will alert you immediately if any exterior doors or windows are being opened.

  • Installing locks high or low on exterior doors can make the locks much less noticeable.
  • Perform a home safety assessment. 

Caring Senior Service performs FREE home safety assessments to help families identify and address home hazards. Reach out to your local Caring office for more details.

Maintain a Routine

Establish a daily routine at home so your loved one knows they have definite responsibilities there and don't need to leave to go to work. Having a routine outlined will give structure to their day, whether they realize it or not. This structure and repetition may help reduce the chance of wandering.

  • Plan out activities that your loved one will enjoy. These activities will help keep them engaged. 

  • Eat meals at the same time each day. 

  • If you want to go on walks, go out at the same time. 

Be Prepared for Anything

While you may try and prevent your senior from wandering, they may still get out. It's best to be prepared and have a back-up plan just in case. Here are some considerations:

  • In advance, give neighbors your phone number to call you if they see your loved one outside alone.

  • Use ID jewelry so that they can be identified and/or given medical attention if necessary. The Alzheimer's Association has a 24-hour Safe Return program.

  • Since it is sometimes difficult to think during emergencies, write a list of the likely places your loved one will try to visit if they leave.

  • Install motion detectors in the home so you can be alerted if your loved one leaves the house. 

In the event your senior does wander, search the most likely nearby destinations. If more than 15 minutes have passed, call police and provide a photo and description of clothing. Remember that your precious loved one's safety is worth every effort to protect it.

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Tags: Alzheimer's & Dementia