Tips for Preventing Wandering Among Seniors with Alzheimer's
Even in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, seniors can experience confusion or disorientation. They may forget their address, or other important details, such as the year, the names of their loved ones, or the directions back to their house. All of this can increase the risk of getting lost or wandering. In fact, studies show that 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander.
When a senior loved one gets lost or wanders, it presents real safety concerns and can be very worrisome. What if they get injured or get into an accident? What if they get lost and can’t find their way home? These kinds of concerns are normal (and understandable!), but there are ways to lessen the risk and ensure the safety of your senior loved ones.
Step 1: Know the Signs
The first step to preventing any crisis is awareness. What are the signs and symptoms that a senior with memory loss may be wandering? Below are a few examples:
- Are they returning home later than usual from their normal routines?
- Do they seem restless or overwhelmed? Pacing, repetitive movements, and restlessness all indicate agitation and an increased risk of exit-seeking behaviors.
- Is your loved one having difficulty finding previously familiar places, such as the bathroom or kitchen?
- Does your loved one express that they want to go home, even when they are home?
- Does your loved one seem overly concerned about the whereabouts of past or current loved ones?
- Do they try to fulfill past obligations, such as going to work or picking up the kids from school?
While the list above isn’t exhaustive, these kinds of behaviors indicate a state of increasing confusion, all of which can put a senior loved one at greater risk for unsafe wandering.
Step 2: Lower the Risk
Do the signs of wandering or disorientation sound familiar? You can create an environment that lowers the risk of unsafe wandering. We’re listing a few tips here:
- Reorient and reassure. If your senior loved one seems confused, provide gentle reassurance. Calmly reorient your senior loved ones to their environment.
- Establish a routine. A predictable daily routine, with regular meals and walks, will help your senior stay grounded.
- Encourage safe, regular physical activity. Offer to go on a walk with them each day. As you’re walking, keep them in the present moment by pointing out their surroundings. Not only will the physical activity reduce agitation, but the fresh air and circulation will help to boost mood.
- Reduce stress and anxiety. Loud noises, busy environments, and lots of change can all trigger anxiety and panic in seniors facing memory loss. Introduce change slowly and avoid loud, busy environments.
- Fun activities. Engage in familiar, sensory-activating activities that are meant to reduce stress. Some activities that our memory care and assisted living residents love here at Orchard Park are: cooking using simple, easy-to-follow recipes; knitting; fun art projects; reading a book together; or listening to their favorite music.
Step 3: Get Prepared and Make a Plan
At times, even when families do all that they can do to help reduce unsafe wandering, they can’t prevent the risk entirely. So, in the case that a senior loved one does wander, it’s wise to have a safety checklist and plan in place.
- Document where the loved one has wandered in the past. You can refer to this list in the case of a crisis.
- Invest in a tracking device. This may sound a little jolting at first, but these devices can be lifesaving. Using GPS tracking, there are many devices on the market that allow seniors to be found quickly and safely. Alzheimer’s Association also offers ID jewelry, which ensures a 24-hour emergency response.
- Alert police and neighbors. Bring police and neighbors a recent photo of your senior loved one and explain their tendency to wander. Put your phone number on the back and ask that they contact you if they see your loved one wandering or looking lost and disoriented.
- Consider assisted living. If you find that it is difficult to control your senior loved one’s exit-seeking behavior, you may want to consider moving your aging loved one into assisted living.
We hope that you found these tips to be helpful! If you’d like to learn more about our dementia care and assisted living services, feel free to contact us and speak to our staff and caregivers. Our senior living community is located in Clovis, CA near Fresno, and we’re always here to help answer any questions you may have.
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