Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Alzheimer's Association Encourages Families to Plan Ahead to Avoid Winter Wandering by 30Seconds Health
Sixty percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point during their diagnosis, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This is a significant safety concern for the more than 220,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Illinois.
A person living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia may not remember his or her name or address and can become disoriented even in familiar places. In cold temperatures and winter weather conditions, wandering can be dangerous – even life-threatening. It is important to keep your loved one with dementia safe by taking simple precautions to prevent wandering.
- Carry out daily activities: Having a routine can provide structure. Consider creating a daily plan.
- Avoid busy places: Shopping malls and grocery stores can be confusing causing disorientation.
- Night wandering: Restrict fluids two hours before bedtime and ensure the person has gone to the bathroom just before bed. Also, use night lights throughout the home or facility.
- Locks: Place out of sight. Install slide bolts at the top or bottom of doors.
- Doors and door knobs: Camouflage doors by painting them the same colors as the walls. Cover them with removable curtains or screens. Cover knobs with cloth in the color of the door or use childproof knobs.
- Monitoring devices: Try devices that signal when a door or window is opened. Place a pressure-sensitive mat at the door or bedside to alert of movement.
- Secure trigger items: Some people will not go out without a coat, hat, pocketbook, keys, wallet, etc. Making these items unavailable can prevent wandering.
Planning ahead for your loved one can be crucial for his or her safety. The Alzheimer’s Association shares activity suggestions, communication and how to identify confusion and triggers that increase wandering:
- Enroll the person in MedicAlert®+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. Call 888.572.8566 or enroll at www.alz.org/safereturn.
- Consider having the person carry or wear an electronic tracking GPS device that helps manage location. Comfort Zone® and Comfort Zone Check-In® are two options. Visit www.alz.org/comfortzone.
- Keep a list of people for the person with dementia to call when feeling overwhelmed. Have telephone numbers in one location and accessible.
- Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person alone or dressed inappropriately.
- Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to police.
- Know your neighborhood. Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
- Know if the individual is right or left-handed. Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand.
- Keep a list of places where the person may wander, like past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.
- Should a loved one go missing, experts recommend calling 911 so that an Illinois Silver Search advisory or other public notification can be issued. A report should be filed with MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return at 800.625.3780. First responders are trained to check with MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return when they locate a missing person with dementia. You do not need to be enrolled in MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return in order to file a report.
Get more information about the Illinois Silver Search program.
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