People with dementia commonly walk aimlessly and wander away from their homes. It’s not always clear why someone is wandering. It could be a side effect of medication. The person may be bored or looking for something or someone. He or she may be trying to fulfill a physical need, like thirst, hunger, the need to use the toilet or exercise.
Here are some strategies to reduce wandering and keep people safe:
- Make time for regular exercise to minimize restlessness.
- Consider installing locks that require a key.
- Position locks high or low on the door; many people with dementia will not think to look beyond eye level.
- Keep in mind fire and safety concerns for all family members; the lock(s) must be accessible to others and easy to open
- Try a barrier like a curtain or colored streamer to mask the door. A “stop” sign or “do not enter” sign also may help.
- Place a black mat or paint a black space on your front porch; this may appear to be an impassable hole to the person with dementia.
- Add child-safe plastic covers to doorknobs.
- Consider installing a home security system or monitoring system designed to keep watch over someone with dementia.
- Consider a wearable GPS digital device or other technology to track or locate a person who wanders off.
- Put away essential items such as the confused person’s coat, purse or glasses. Some individuals will not go out without certain articles.
- Have the person wear an ID bracelet and sew ID labels in their clothes.
- Keep a current photo on hand in case you need to report your loved one missing.
- Register the person likely to wander with the police department or the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program
- Tell neighbors about your relative’s wandering behavior and make sure they have your phone number.
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