By Bruce Barnet, founder of The Alzheimer's Store.
Professionals, home caregivers, family members, and even those who manage communities and facilities have to be aware of wandering as a symptom in our senior population. Seniors can find themselves in what seem to be unfamiliar environments, and they look for ways to leave wherever they are. Many times they want to go home when they are already there. Perhaps they want to go to the home they remember in younger years.
Dementia and Alzheimer's is a disease that plays tricks with our brain (a very non-medical way to explain this disease).When Alzheimer's and Dementia patients find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, they frequently wander.They are attempting to make sense of the world around them.Patients will sometimes leave clues that they are about to wander by announcing that it is time to go to work or that they are going home now. At other times, they will just start going into dangerous areas or simply leave the premises.
Locked doors can sometimes add to frustration and make situations worse. At this point, those responsible for the safety of an individual need to take some steps to be proactive.
From a simple sign to modern technology, there are practical solutions to try to prevent a disoriented person from getting into harms way.
As a person starts to lose their cognitive thoughts, they still recognize memories and facts they had in their early years. One of the first ones is a simple STOP SIGN. This can be a decal or a banner placed on doors or areas that should not be entered. Just like seeing a red light.
There are commercial fire-rated door murals that can disguise a door to the point that it simply disappears. There is a facility in Florida that was told by the fire marshal that they had to remove the mural as the firemen might not find the exit(even though there was a red EXIT sign above it). Signs can be placed on doors leading to stairs or utility closets or other areas that need not be accessed, but that are in frequent use.
Door alarms are an easy solution, with chimes that can be placed so that a caregiver can be alerted when a door,especially the front door, is opened. A little more sophisticated is a door alarm with a key pad that still allows free access but will signal when the proper code is not entered. Indoor motion sensors are also a great tool especially in hall ways at night.
Many times wandering can start when some one is restless in bed or a chair, and the caregiver is busy elsewhere. There are patient monitoring pads that are connected to a remote alarm for a bed,chair, or even a mat. When they are activated, the person in charge (up to 100 feet away) can be notified and they can even speak into an open transmitter telling their charge to please wait they are coming.
The newest technology is a GPS watch that can coordinate with any computer so a person can be tracked. If they wander outside of a certain preset area, a responder will automatically be alerted by phone or text.
The person wearing the device (that can be attached to their wrist like a hospital band) can be tracked on the computer.
All those responsible in a community need to be made aware of warning signs and put a protocol into effect that can protect our loved ones - as we are our brother's keeper.
[You can find all of the items mentioned in this article - and many, many more - at The Alzheimer's Store (thealzstore.com)]
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.