Care for adults who can get lost

2015-08-18 06:01

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander and may become lost.

A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember his name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places.

Wandering among people with dementia is also dangerous, but there are ways to help prevent it.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering.

Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused for a period of time. It’s important to plan ahead for this type of situation. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs:

. Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual.

. Tries to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work.

. Tries or wants to “go home”, even when at home.

. Is restless, paces or makes repetitive movements.

. Has difficulty locating familiar places, like the bathroom or bedroom.

. Asks the whereabouts of current or past friends and family.

. Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done.

. Appears lost in a new or changed environment.

Tips to prevent wandering

Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. Use the following strategies to help lower the chances:

. Carry out daily activities. Having a routine can provide structure.

. Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur.

. Activities and exercise can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.

. Reassure the person if he feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.

. If a person with dementia wants to leave to “go home” or “go to work” don’t correct him. Rather say: “We are staying here tonight. We can go home in the morning after a good night’s rest.”

. Ensure all basic needs are met. Has the person gone to the bathroom? Is he thirsty or hungry?

. Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation, such as shopping malls, grocery stores or other busy venues.

. Place locks out of the line of sight. Install locks and slide bolts on exterior doors.

. Camouflage doors and door knobs. Camouflage doors by painting them the colour of the walls. Use child-proof knobs.

. Use devices that signal when a door or window is opened. This can be a bell placed above a door or a home alarm.

. Provide supervision. Never lock the person with dementia in at home alone or leave him or her in a car without supervision.

. Keep car keys out of sight. A person with dementia may drive off and be at risk of potential harm to themselves or others.

. If night wandering is a problem: Restrict fluids to two hours before bedtime. Also, use night lights throughout the home.

Make a plan

The stress experienced by families and caregivers when a person with dementia wanders and becomes lost is significant. Have a plan in place beforehand.

. Keep an emergency list of people to call on for help.

. Ask neighbours, friends and family to call if they see the person alone.

. Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand.

. Know your neighborhood.

. Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.

. Is he right or left-handed? Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand.

. Keep a list of places where the person may wander, such as past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.

. Give the person ID jewellery.

. If the person wanders, search the immediate area for no more than 15 minutes, then call the police.

Call 08600 10111 and report to the police that a person with Alzheimer’s disease — a “vulnerable adult” — is missing. A missing report should be filed and the police will start searching.

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