How to Prevent a Senior from Wandering

wondering senior
“Wandering” is a major concern for caregivers involved in senior home care and for the professional staff in senior assisted living facilities. Wandering is an event associated with conditions that produce impairment of memory or mental capacity. This can include people who suffer from autism or Down’s syndrome, as well as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Alzheimer's patient, Harold Cantrell, missing from ALF
Harold Cantrell

The seniors in senior home care, senior assisted living and memory care living are one of our special concerns at One particular story that we deeply regret hearing is one where a resident of a memory care living facility in the Daytona area wandered away from the facility and died before he could be located. Most wandering episodes do not result in a fatality, but the possibility is a concern to the family and to professionals providing in-home senior care.

Among loved ones providing in-home senior care, the fear of wandering can become a major problem, so it is wise to take some precautions. Here are a few simple suggestions:

Make your Home Secure

This may be as simple as putting bells on exit doors to alert the caregiver if someone leaves or as complicated as secured, locked windows. Motion detectors can alert you when someone opens an outer door and may give the senior home care provider added security.

Make Sure the Person Carries an ID

There is nothing wrong with a wallet ID, but they are easily forgotten or lost. Medical ID jewelry like a bracelet is a good idea. Consider sewing identification tags into some of your loved one’s clothing.

Consider a Fence

The expense may be too great for a family member who is providing senior home care, but the operators of memory care living and senior assisted living facilities should have some barrier and controlled entry and exit. This should be a basic requirement when considering a senior assisted living or memory care living facility.

Tell your Neighbors About the Situation

Introduce yourself and let neighbors know about the possibility of a loved one accidently getting lost. People in the immediate neighborhood are likely to be the first to see a senior loved one who is confused or lost. Give neighbors a number where you can be reached and ask them to keep you informed.  A lot of people are not inclined to get involved, and giving them permission ahead of time may encourage them.

Increase Daytime Activity

There is some evidence that increased activity during the day can help prevent wandering at night. This may not apply to every situation, but even a late afternoon walk may help to lessen agitation and the likelihood of wandering.

Try to Adjust Sleep Habits

In some people, wandering is associated with sleep disorders. If a loved one is having difficulty sleeping, get advice from a physician. Try to stop caffeinated beverages and limit daytime napping.

Look into Radio Tracking Devices

Pendants, bracelets and other jewelry with radio transmitters are a relatively new development. Some of them are short range devices that can only inform a senior home care worker or family member that the person has left the home. Others are more powerful and can help authorities locate a senior if they become lost after leaving home, senior assisted living or memory care living facilities. The Project Life Saver Organization may be able to provide one of these devices in your local area.

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