We have been assisting a client named Bill for the past couple of years who has Alzheimer's. Bill's wife Sarah is his primary caregiver, we send care each day so that Sarah can have time to spend on activities that require her to be away from the home.
Bill enjoys spending time in his backyard gardening and being in his work shop. Sarah never worried because he always stayed close by and she knew that he would not wander out of the yard. Bill's diagnosis was mild dementia that could later develop into Alzheimer's so for Sarah wandering had never been a concern.
One day after a longer than normal phone call Sarah went to check on Bill. After looking in the yard and the work shop, Bill was no where to be found. Bill had heard a noise at the front of the house and thinking it was Sarah he set out to see if she needed something. Not seeing his wife he began walking down the street to look for her. Bill started walking through the neighborhood that he use to walk through daily, but suddenly he realized that he did not recognize the area or any of the surroundings. Bill continued to walk thinking that eventually he would recognize a house a street... something.
In a panic Sarah called her children and the neighbors and the search began. Bill's loved ones and community looked for over two hours without success in finding Bill. Finally Sarah called 911 to seek help in searching for her husband. Several hours later Bill was found at a bus stop on a busy street, cold, hungry and frightened.
Many people suffering from dementia are not as lucky as Bill. Six out of ten people with Alzheimer's will wander and get lost. According to the research, if a wanderer is not found within 24 hours, there is a 50% chance that the wanderer has suffered a serious injury, or has died.
Here are steps to take to improve the safety of your loved one:
Install locks on doors and windows that can't easily be open. Put them at a higher level so that they are more difficult to reach. Motion detectors can alert you when an outer door is opened. Installing child-safety devices and baby monitors are helpful for safety.
Utilize signage inside the home. A big red "STOP" on the door can be effective. Painting the door the same color as the wall can disguise the door to appear as a wall. Also consider putting signs on other doors like the bathroom and bedroom so that they can see which door leads to where.
Yards should be fenced in with the locks on the outside of the gate.
Provide repetitive activities for your loved one to do to decrease the need to wander: sweeping, puzzles, folding clothes, photos to sort through, rocking in a chair, things that can engage them in former interests.
Provide your loved one with ID jewelry or a medical bracelet with their name, health condition along with your name and phone number. An electronic tracking device is worth the investment.
Inform the neighbor's of your loved ones condition, introduce them so they recognize a face and ask them to call you if they see your loved one unattended outside of the home. Explain the condition so that they are inclined to become involved.
Keep a list of your loved one's current medical information, along with physical features and a close-up photo to give to the police if assistance is needed for identification.
Keep a list of places where your loved one may wander. Any place that use to be of importance or significance.
Have a list of people to call when help is needed.
Wandering can be triggered by simple basic needs. Leave a glass of water or crackers by the bed, looking to satisfy these needs can cause your loved one to wander.
What to do if your loved one is missing
Experts say to search the immediate area for no more than 15 minutes and then call 911 to report a vulnerable adult who is missing.
Check areas that may be dangerous near the home: bodies of water, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops, heavily traveled roads, and open stairwells.
Search within a one-mile radius of where your loved one was before they went missing.
Look near a road. Most people who wander start out on roads and stay close by.
Look at places that are familiar to your loved one.
Search the direction of your loved ones dominant hand. People normally travel in their dominant direction.
The Alzheimer's Association website has many resources to help keep persons with dementia and Alzheimer's safe. Visit their website at: http://www.alz.org
If your are finding it difficult to juggle it all - work, family, errands and other demands that often leave you over taxed. Where do you turn when a loved ones needs are more than you can manage on your own? What do you do when some of the care alternatives seem like a complication rather than a solution? We understand, in fact, we have been there.
Consult Atlanta's most trusted sources for quality Home Care, Easy Living Services. We offer flexible care plans designed to provide safety, comfort, companionship and personal care along with attention to your loved ones needs.
Call us at 770-442-8664 to discuss the assistance that you need.