As the caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, you’re all too familiar with the fear: waking up in the middle of the night to find your home’s back door open, and your loved one nowhere to be found. Wandering is becoming a bigger problem as the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease increases each year. In fact, some studies report that up to 60 percent of individuals with the disease will wander at some point.
The risks associated with wandering are frightening. Individuals who wander are at risk of physical injury, becoming permanently lost, and even illness or death due to exposure. Wandering individuals are also vulnerable to attacks by animals or other humans.
Here’s how you can help prevent a wandering episode and keep your loved one safe.
Wandering can be caused by a variety of different factors.
For instance, as Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, your loved one may become more agitated and confused as the evening hours arrive.
Because dusk is typically a time of activity in most people’s lives (getting off work, preparing dinner, doing chores, bathing children, etc), it can become a very confusing time for individuals suffering from cognitive impairment. Old routines, hobbies and chores may come rushing back to them, confusing them as they struggle to orient themselves to their current surroundings. The increased confusion associated with dusk is a phenomenon known as “sundowning,” and it contributes to episodes of wandering in many individuals with dementia. Other culprits of wandering include illnesses, new medications, visitors to the home, boredom, or hunger.
Unfortunately, most wandering episodes occur randomly. Any sight, sound or smell that reminds your loved one of a past job, event, lifestyle or hobby may trigger them to wander.
While you certainly can’t control or predict every situation that will lead to wandering, you can learn to be hypervigilant of your loved one’s surroundings. Catalogue each episode of wandering. Pinpoint certain events or activities that have caused heightened agitation or confusion in your loved one. Be aware of patterns in their behavior that lead to wandering or attempting to wander.
Hunger, thirst, boredom, and overstimulation are some of the leading causes of wandering in people with Alzheimer’s Disease. A set daily routine that ensures all of your loved one’s needs are met can reduce wandering episodes. Make sure your loved one eats, drinks, exercises and does recreational activities on a regular schedule. Make sure he or she has adequate clothing for the weather, that the home is the proper temperature, and that meals are served at the right times.
For many of us, sticking to a perfect schedule every day is impossible--life simply gets in the way. A professional in-home caregiver can help reduce the burden that a constant routine places on family members of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
If your loved one lives at home, making changes to the doors, locks and home layout can help reduce instances of wandering.
Make sure each exit door in your loved one’s home is fitted with sliding bolt locks that are out of sight or reach. If you don’t want to invest in new locks, consider purchasing child-proof door knob covers.
You can also invest in door and window coverings that can be pinned back or removed during the day. Camouflaging doors and windows will make it harder for your loved one to find their way out of the home.
You may also place signs around the home that guide your loved one to certain rooms if they get disoriented. Clear all paths for easy walking, and remove any clutter that can make them feel confined.
A GPS tracking device can help you keep track of your loved one, especially if he or she tends to wander or get distracted throughout the day. Trackers can help family caregivers keep tabs of their loved one’s activities throughout the day. Some devices even listen in and communicate with your loved one through two-way communication streams.
While wandering can be a scary element of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, you can empower yourself and your loved one with a little planning.
If you’re interested in learning more about New Jersey home care in Mercer and Burlington Counties, contact Visiting Angels today.
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Visiting Angels was absolutely wonderful.
Visiting Angels was absolutely wonderful.