Keeping a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia at home can seem challenging or downright impossible. But there are ways for seniors who wander to remain safe in the familiarity of home for a longer period of time.
The following, from Home Instead Inc. and the Alzheimer’s Association, are tips to help families balance independence and safety at home.
- Make a plan early. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, everyone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia is at risk of wandering. As long as that person is mobile, wandering can happen at any time – not just on foot, but in a vehicle or even in a wheelchair. Rather than reactive, be proactive by making a plan before a wandering incident occurs.
- Safeguard the home and know your environment. Prepare the home to ensure your loved one is safe. Know your neighborhood and areas that could attract an interested senior. Has the person been talking about wanting to visit someone or some place? Keep a list of the places where they might go.
- Protect your loved one. Make sure the individual is wearing identification at all times. Keep handy an updated photo of them and a current medication list. Consider the fee-based MediAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program. EnrolIed individuals wear an ID bracelet to help authorities identify them.
- Be prepared if a loved one becomes lost. Register with the free www. MissingSeniorNetwork.com. This free service will help family caregivers create a list of contacts they can alert should their loved one go missing.
- Help to identify and avoid triggers. Visit www.PreventWandering.com to learn the possible “whys” behind the wandering of your loved one and journal them.
- Combat anxiety, agitation and restlessness with reassurance and diversions. The more anxious a loved one becomes, the more likely he or she could be headed out the door. Provide activities to divert and entertain and also reassure them they are safe.
- Avoid overstimulation. Too much activity or noise could trigger a “flight” reaction. Avoid large, noisy gatherings or crowded places.
- Educate others. Tell as many people as possible about the disease – from trusted neighbors to shop owners to the staffs of restaurants where your loved one likes to eat – so they are aware. Encourage business owners to learn more about the disease by taking the free Alzheimer’s Friendly Business online training or by contacting Memory Matters, 843-842-6688, about their Purple Angel project.
- Ensure constant supervision. As the disease progresses, your loved one might need constant supervision to remain at home. Consider getting help from a home care agency that trains their care providers in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
- Take care of yourself and get help. You can’t be a good caregiver unless you first take care of yourself.
REMINDER: The Walk to end Alzheimer’s is Oct. 29 in the Promenade in Old Bluffton. Please come out to support it. Most of the monies raised here stay in this area.
Rachel Carson, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care, serving the Lowcountry since 1997.