Ten Tips to Reduce Wandering
There are many reasons for someone with Alzheimer's disease wandering. Here are tips to help caregivers reduce the risk of wandering and keep their loved one safe.
1. Be Prepared
There's no way to predict who will wander or when, or how it might happen. The best advice is to be prepared, and to register in the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return program before a loved one gets lost.
2. Encourage Movement And Exercise
Make a shared exercise, such as walking, part of your daily routine together, and allow the person access to a safe, enclosed area.
3. Be Objective
Don't take the person's wandering behavior personally.
4. Be Aware Of Hazards
Places that look safe might be dangerous for someone with Alzheimer's. Look in and around your home for possible hazards -- fences and gates, bodies of water, pools, dense foliage, bus stops, steep stairways, high balconies and roadways where there is heavy traffic -- and change what you can or block access.
5. Secure Your Living Area
Do what you can to make your home safe and secure. Place locks out of the normal line of vision -- either very high or very low on doors. Use door knobs that prevent the person with Alzheimer's from opening the door. Other safety actions include: placing locks on gates, camouflaging doors, fencing in the patio or yard, installing electronic alarms or chimes on doors, and using familiar objects, signs and nightlights to guide the person around a safe area.
6. Communicate With The Person
Regularly remind and reassure the person with Alzheimer's that you know how to find him and that he's in the right place.
7. Identify The Patient
Have the person wear an identification bracelet or necklace. Use sew-on or iron-on labels, or permanent markers, to mark clothing. Place identification on shoes, keys and eyeglasses, and in wallets and handbags.
8. Involve Your Neighbors
Inform your neighbors of your loved one's condition and keep a list of their names and phone numbers handy.
9. Involve The Police
Some police departments will keep a photo and fingerprints of people with Alzheimer's on file. Have this information ready in case of an emergency: the person's age, hair color, eye color, identifying marks, blood type, medical condition, medication, dental work, jewelry and allergies.
10. Be Prepared For Other Modes Of Wandering
Although most wandering takes place on foot, some people with Alzheimer's have been known to drive hundreds of miles -- sometimes in a vehicle that belongs to someone else. Prevent this problem by keeping car keys out of sight, or temporarily disabling the car by removing the distributor cap. People with Alzheimer's also have traveled great distances by train or airplane, or have ridden public transportation for hours.
The Alzheimer's Association is the only national voluntary health organization dedicated to research for the causes, treatments, preventions and cure of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, and support for affected families. The association's Safe Return program is the only nationwide program that helps identify and return to their loved ones individuals with Alzheimer's disease who wander off and get lost.
Reprinted with permission from The Alzheimer's Association
Date written: April 23, 1995
Date reviewed: March7, 2005