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How to keep your loved one from wandering away and getting hurt

By Peter DiMaria

"Wandering behavior" is something that caregivers for Alzheimer’s Disease patients are often used to. It happens a lot with Home Helpers Dementia Care clients in Tolland, Suffield and all over North Central CT and Western MA

This happens because, as the patient’s brain is affected by the disease, he or she tends to preserve original, established activities that were learned early in life. Walking is, probably, the last activity that people with dementia will remain attached to, as they evolve into confusion and disorientation. Most of the time they will not know where they are going to, or why they are walking. They just feel the urge to walk. Other times they will start walking for a reason, but soon they will forget why they started to move. They will just keep moving aimlessly, trying to remember where they are going. Therefore, the

This happens because, as the patient’s brain is affected by the disease, he or she tends to preserve original, established activities that were learned early in life. Walking is, probably, the last activity that people with dementia will remain attached to, as they evolve into confusion and disorientation. Most of the time they will not know where they are going to, or why they are walking. They just feel the urge to walk. Other times they will start walking for a reason, but soon they will forget why they started to move. They will just keep moving aimlessly, trying to remember where they are going. Therefore, the so called wandering behavior.

When considering home care for a dementia patient, it is very important to be aware of this wandering behavior and take some measures to make the environment secure and avoid accidents.

Here are 8 Home Care tips for family caregivers to help your loved one to move freely, safely and more oriented:

  • Place night lights throughout the house. Sometimes the patient will wake up in the middle of the night and simply start walking. Having lights strategically placed will prevent them from stumbling against a wall or piece of furniture;
  • Place locks out of reach or out of sight. With the wandering comes also the urge to go outside. If doors aren’t locked or if locks are easy to find, that could be a recipe for disaster: your loved one could leave the house in a moment when you are distracted, only to be found hours later, miles away. So it is important to equip the doors that grant access to the outside with locks that they can’t reach or see. A simple change in a door latch could be enough to stop the wanderer. Fences and locked gates should be considered for the backyard, as well;
  • Place warning bells above doors. Movement sensors like those we see in shops when customers walk in are also effective. This way, the caregiver will get a heads up when the wanderer starts to move around;
  • Keep medications and toxic substances out of sight. If it says “keep away from children”, then it should be kept away from a dementia patient;
  • Make the person more visible, by adopting bright, shiny pieces of clothing. Consider sewing bicycle reflectors onto jackets sleeves;
  • Sometimes it is not that they want to go outside. It is only that they don’t know where they are going, but they feel they have to go somewhere. Clearly label all doors, to help them to understand where they are going too. Use signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room. Discourage the use of particular rooms or doors by labeling them with “do not enter!” or simply “NO”.
  • Consider adding an electronic monitor which shows you where the person is. Nowadays there are devices that will help you locate a lost cell phone or lap top. They can also be attached to the clothes of your loved ones, in case they wander away;
  • Make the house as safe as possible, by putting furniture against walls, removing obstacles in paths and using rounded cornered furniture. Use adequate protection to prevent access to staircases, with the use of safety gates. Adapt existing steps that might exist in between rooms, turning them into ramps;

Hopefully, these and other measures will help to prevent accidents and will help to keep your loved ones nearby and protected, even when they start to wander. Other times, some help will be needed, to be able to look after your loved one and cope with daily life activities.

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Useful advice from Home Helpers Enfield to keep patients safe when they show wandering behavior in Home Care