Caring for an elderly parent that wanders away can be a harrowing cause for concern. They want to have the independence that they once had and you want to give them the dignity they deserve, but you recognize the dangers of wandering can put their lives in serious jeopardy. It can be overwhelming for caregivers and be the source of anxiety for family and friends that recognize can’t be watching their loved ones at all times. It is important for an elderly parent to get out and about, so they are able to see people, mingle, get exercise and maintain their activities that they would normally do throughout the day. Studies seem to indicate that regularly daytime exercise can lower chances of nighttime wandering. On the other hand, it is equally important to have a proactive strategy in place to keep potential wanderers as safe as possible, at all times.
Here are some safeguards to keeping your loved one safe:
- Medical alert tags can be purchased for a reasonable price. Medical alert tags can be utilized to indicate any pertinent information of a person found wandering, including contact information, medications your loved one is taking, medical conditions, and most importantly, they can indicate memory impairment.
- A mobile medical alert, like those available through Pioneer Emergency can be worn, in case of emergency, and can be used 24 hours a day to notify responders. This type of medical alert is worn by the senior and can be activated by a simple push of a button.
- The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24-hour emergency service that notified when a loved has gone missing. The service will then notify local law enforcement and Alzheimer’s Associations in the area to help reunite missing loved ones.
- A GPS device can be worn to help the senior be located.
- Keep a list of people to contact in case of emergency. This list should include not only emergency personnel, but family members, friends, or any others that may be able to help.
- Make a list of places the person may wander to. This may include church, former homes, favorite restaurants, former jobs or schools, or a favorite place they may like to visit.
- Keep a few copies clear, updated photo on hand, just in case. With these photos, keep a list of medications and/or medical conditions that should be noted.
If you are caring for an elderly person, that is prone to wandering, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep doors and windows locked at night or hours that wandering occurs. It may be necessary to secure doors and windows, and to keep car keys out of reach of a person that may be prone to wandering.
- Keep the pathways clear. It is important to keep hallways and other areas well-lit and clutter-free, if nighttime wandering may be a concern, especially for those with back or hip problems or using mobility devices, such as a walker.
- For night time wanderers: if possible, make sure that fluids are restricted a few hours before bed and encourage use of the bathroom just prior to bedtime.
- Make sure medical alert systems are working properly and batteries are changed regularly.
- Right or Left-handed? Wandering usually follows the direction of the person’s dominant hand.
- Keep a consistent schedule. Create a daily plan and stick to it. Consistency can help keep anxiety and agitation at bay, which can sometimes be triggers for persons that are prone to wandering.
- Ensure that basic needs are met. If most needs are met, there is nothing to search for. Make sure food, water, bathroom needs are taken care of regularly.
Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
Statistically, the chances of persons with Alzheimer’s or dementia wandering is very high: 6 out of 10 persons with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will wander. Sometimes, they cannot find their way back home from a familiar place, such as the park or grocery store. They may leave the home with an objective, even if they cannot remember this purpose in the end. Some seniors have lost their lives because they went too far, and ended up somewhere that they shouldn’t have been. This can be a dangerous situation, so keeping a close eye on your elderly parents is key to keeping them safe.
Back or Hip Problems
Those with back or hip problems, or any other problems shouldn’t be walking around unassisted. If they are unsteady on their feet, and have a hard time regaining their balance, then they may be prone to falling down when they are trying to maneuver the rough terrain around them. This can be something that could mean life or death for the senior that is wandering away from the home. You want to ensure that when they are out and about, that they have something that they can use to steady themselves, and allow them enough time to get to where they are going without being rushed. Ask the doctor for medical equipment that may help assist your loved one. Some options are: canes, walkers, crutches, walkers with seats or rollators, wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, and folded seat canes.
While any senior out there that might have any medical condition might want to get out and meet others and go places, safety must come first. Using your best judgement and keeping open communication with their medical care provider can aid you in making decisions that are best suited for your parent or loved one’s situation.
Through the use of these tips, and the help of devices such as medical alert products, you’re able to keep a closer eye on your parents and keep them safe. If they ever should fall, then you’re able to know that they can reach a button that will call for help immediately, no matter where they might be. Straying parents can be an alarming complication, but with great care and taking precautions to protect the ones you love, dangerous circumstances can be less worrisome.