For many caregivers of a senior with dementia, or Alzheimer’s, the possibility of this loved one wandering and going missing is a big source of concern and one of the largest fears. The truth is, 6 out of 10 people with dementia will become lost at least once during the progression of the disease. i Though unfortunate, this is a reality in the lives of many caregivers and seniors. Taking action to safeguard your loved one and knowing what to do if he or she does go missing will help dissipate caregivers’ anticipatory anxiety. Preparedness lessens worry and increases the likelihood of recovering a loved one if wandering should occur.
6 Safety Precautions
Try these six safety precautions to “stay ahead of the wander” and help keep your loved one safe:
- Always have a current photo and med list available, and pay attention to what clothing is worn each day in case you need to report your loved one missing; you can also leave a photo on file with the local police department.
- Tell neighbors about the wandering behavior and make sure they know how and when to contact you, for example if they find your loved one unsupervised outside.
- Have the at-risk individual wear an ID bracelet and sew ID labels into clothing so he or she can be identified, even if a purse or wallet is not carried while wandering.
- Consider a mobile alert system, like Residential Nurse Alert, featuring GPS tracking and the ability to connect to your loved one anytime – anywhere.
- Register your loved one with the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program: http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp.
- Keep a list of places the individual may be likely to wander, like past jobs, former homes, places of worship, etc.
- Scope out “danger spots” in your area that pose a higher risk to well-being, like ditches or ponds.
My Loved One Has Wandered…Now What?
If your loved one has wandered, time is of the essence. If you carried out the 6 Safety Precautions listed above, you already have a head start. Time to “activate” this safety net:
- Call 911 to report your loved one missing.
- Call the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program to report your loved one missing.
- Check all of the “danger spots” where trouble may befall your loved one.
- Check all of the likely wandering destinations.
- Consult with neighbors to see if your loved one was spotted.
- Make sure you are available to be reached as listed if your loved one is found by a Good Samaritan who reads the clothing tag or ID jewelry searching for identity clues.
Though the waiting is painful, the good news is that people are helping you search for your loved one. Stay hopeful and active.
To learn more about dementia, Alzheimer’s and wandering, download our guide: Dementia and Wandering: Warnings, Triggers, Prevention and Rescue. Packed with ways to prevent and discourage this troubling symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as more details on what to do if your loved one wanders, this helpful caregiver resource may be a real lifesaver.
i Johnson, Kirk (2005-05-04). “More With Dementia Wander From Home”. New York Times.