Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that is prevalent among seniors; it is estimated that 5.3 million people over the age of 65 have this condition. When a person has Alzheimer’s, their memory and other cognitive functions progressively decline, starting with signs as subtle as forgetting small details to completely forgetting names or faces of loved ones. Understandably, Alzheimer’s disease is difficult for both the person who suffers from it and their families. This condition is made even more difficult by the fact that your loved one may not fully understand how their dementia is impacting them, and may put themselves at risk. One behavior that up to 60 percent of people with dementia demonstrate is wandering.
What Wandering Means
Wandering is a common, but dangerous, behavior of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This can happen at any stage of Alzheimer’s, when the patient becomes confused about their whereabouts. As a caregiver, it is important that you look out for indications of wandering, as this behavior can be quite dangerous. Read on for signs to look out for that indicate that your loved one may be wandering.
Signs of Wandering
- They have forgotten directions to a place they have been before.
- They take longer than usual to return from a regular activity, such as a walk.
- They have trouble remembering where rooms are at home, such as their bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen.
- Even when they are already home, they try to leave to “go home.”
- They seem lost and confused in new environments.
- They demonstrate restless behavior, such as pacing or repetitive motions.
- They say they are doing something, such as a chore, but nothing is actually done.
- They try to “go to work” even though they are not employed.
When your senior loved one wanders, it can be quite frightening. Fortunately, there is hope to address this problem. Technology continues to show promise in ensuring the safety of seniors with Alzheimer’s. One promising technology that is currently being used to track seniors with dementia is geofencing.
The Power of Geofencing
Geofencing is an innovative software that utilizes smartphones to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients. Using GPS technology, geofencing can alert caregivers if their senior loved one with dementia leaves the boundaries put in place. These GPS trackers for dementia patients come in the form of bracelets or other types of sensors. These devices prevent wandering behavior by sending a message to the smartphone of the designated caretaker anytime the Alzheimer’s patient leaves the geofence perimeter. Without this technology, locating a wandering Alzheimer’s patient could take hours, thousands of dollars, and dozens of police officers. Now, with a GPS tracker, locating a wandering individual can be accomplished in minutes, cost virtually nothing, and require only one or two people to help. This revolutionary technology is set to change the negative impact wandering behavior has on seniors with dementia.
However, just because you have the use of this technology, doesn’t mean that you should not take additional precautions to prevent wandering. Sometimes, wandering actually increases with the use of these GPS trackers for Alzheimer’s patients because families will become more lax about the issue. Therefore, to put your loved one in the best position to stop wandering, here are some tips for preventing it.
- Implement a Daily Routine. When you do certain activities at the same time every day, including waking up, meal times, and going to sleep, it helps provide structure that is helpful to Alzheimer’s patients. When they have a basic idea of how their day is going to go, they feel less disorientation and confusion, which can lead to wandering.
- Reassure Them. When your loved one is disoriented or confused, resist frustration and correcting them. Focus on making them feel safe and validated in their feelings. Reassure them that they are safe to prevent their confusion escalating to wandering.
- Mind Basic Needs. Seniors with Alzheimer’s may wander simply because they are hungry, thirsty, or need a toilet and don’t know where they are. You can prevent them for wandering in search of these things by making sure their basic needs are met.
- Identify Prime Wandering Times. There are certain times when wandering will be more likely for the individual with dementia. For example, your loved one may tend to wander at night when they get up to use the restroom. Take steps to prevent these scenarios; for example, by limiting liquid intake before bed, and having them use the facilities right beforehand.
- Avoid Busy Spots. Places such as grocery stores or shopping complexes can be disorienting to people with Alzheimer’s because they are so busy. This confusion can cause them to wander. Avoid taking them to very busy places, or go only at odd hours when they are less likely to be packed.
- Install Night Lights. Installing night lights in your home can light the path of your loved one, making it less likely that they will get confused in the night and wander.
- Use Childproofing. Childproofing can prevent your loved one from wandering outside of the home. Use childproof door knobs, and install locks above or below their line of vision to stop them from exiting.
- Place Bells Above Doors. Just like you have seen in restaurants or stores, a bell above the door of your home can be set up to ring in the event of your loved one exiting the premises. This can help you be aware of any wandering outside the home.
- Install Fencing. In the event that your loved one does leave the home, installing fencing or hedges can help prevent your loved one from wandering further.
- Label Rooms. If your loved one with dementia tends to become disoriented in the home, try labelling each room to remind them of its intended purpose.
- Don’t Leave Them In the Car. Even if you are just running into the store on a quick errand, in the time you are gone, your loved one may become disoriented and wander off (or take the car entirely). Avoid this problem by never leaving them in the car alone.
- Secure their Items. There are certain items that your senior loved one would not choose to leave home without, such as their wallet, keys, purse, or coat. Secure these items in a place they cannot reach to prevent them from wandering out of the home.
- Prevent Overstimulation. Seniors with dementia can often become overstimulated by too much noise or movement, which can lead to confusion. Avoid confusing them by limiting the amount of noise in your home.
- Know Your Neighbors (and Neighborhood). Talk to your neighbors about your loved one with dementia. Let them know that wandering may be an issue, and if they do see your loved one alone, to call you right away. Additionally, be aware of hazards in your neighborhood, such as streets with heavy traffic, bodies of water, and wooded areas.
- Keep Recent Photos. Keeping up-to-date photos of the senior in your care is a good idea in the event that they do wander off. This way, you can give police the most accurate photo of them possible.
- Know Where They Would Go. Figuring out where your loved one would be motivated to go is a good way to stay ahead of their wandering. Keep a list of places they might be drawn to, such a former places of employment, church, somewhere they used to live, or their favorite restaurant.
At Zanthion, we understand that caring for your senior loved one comes with unique challenges. You can ease the stress of caretaking with the use of our senior monitoring system. With Zanthion, you can rest assured that you will know what is going on with your senior loved one at any given moment. This peace of mind is invaluable when your senior parent or other relative has Alzheimer’s. Shop our free senior monitoring system here today.