If you are the Michigan caregiver of a senior loved one who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, wandering is probably one of the behaviors you worry about most. Despite caregivers’ best efforts, experts from the Alzheimer’s Association report that six in ten people who have the disease will wander. Once a person begins wandering they are more likely to continue. If a loved one with dementia goes missing, every minute counts in helping them make a safe return home. Being prepared for just such an emergency can make the difference difference. One way to do that is by assembling an Alzheimer’s Wandering Kit.
Create an Alzheimer’s Wandering Kit
In the event a your loved one wanders, quickly providing emergency responders and the alert the media with the information and photos they need can make all of the difference in how safely and quickly they are located. Here is a list of what your Alzheimer’s Wandering Kit should include:
- A written description of your aging loved one. Height, weight, eye color, hair color, and any identifying marks or features like a tattoo or scar. Include at least three emergency contact people with the description and make sure you list work, home and cell phone numbers.
- A recent photo of your loved one. It is important that the picture be a good quality head shot that can be cleanly photocopied for flyers. Keep the photo updated if your loved one’s appearance changes. A few seconds of video where your loved one’s face can easily be seen will also help.
- Make sure your kit has a copy of your loved one’s complete medical file. You need their medical history, known health problems, allergies and medications they take. You should also include their physician’s name and contact information
- Create a list of places and addresses familiar to your family member. It might give authorities some kind of a starting point to begin their search. Places to include might be past homes, past employers, loved ones homes, and their church or synagogue.
- If your aging family member still drives, be sure you have a description of their car that includes the make, model and year as well as their license plate number. It will help police alert the authorities in surrounding communities to be on the lookout for their vehicle.
One final piece of advice is to have multiple copies of your Alzheimer’s Wandering Kit stored in an easily accessible location. A digital version that you can email to media and law enforcement is best.
July is often referred to as “the dog days of summer” in many towns and cities across the state of Michigan. When the mercury soars, seniors can be at greater risk for developing a heat related illness. In some cases, those conditions can be life-threatening. If you are planning an outdoor event this summer or if the aging loved one you help provide care for enjoys the outdoors, you should be proactive in keeping them safe. Here are a few tips we think can help.
Summer Sun Safety Tips for Seniors
- Layer on the sunscreen. Two common mistakes people make are putting too little sunscreen on before heading outdoors and then failing to reapply it throughout the day. This is even more important as we age and our skin becomes more fragile. Keep your senior loved ones stocked up with sunscreen and remind them to use it. A rule of thumb dermatologists share is that you should apply the equivalent of one shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours.
- Review your loved ones medication list. Some of the medicines commonly prescribed for seniors make them more sensitive to the sun. This Sun Sensitive Medications list from WebMD can help you determine if one of your aging loved one’s are a potential problem. Being aware of their risk can help them prevent a variety of illnesses including sun poisoning and heat stroke.
- Encourage hydration. Make sure your senior loved one knows to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day during the summer heat. Some foods can also help improve hydration. They include melons, cucumber, and leafy greens.
- Knowing the warning signs of heat related illnesses. Early intervention is critical to getting help when someone experiences heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Remember that heat related illnesses may occur quicker in older adults than they do in younger people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a tip sheet that can help you learn the warning signs in seniors.
We hope these help you and your aging loved one stay safe in the summer sun this year!
My mom just turned 80 years old. While she has always been active and independent, she was recently diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. Her physician explained to us that she will slowly lose her vision. We have talked about it and she knows she needs to change her living environment now. Her house is old and has a lot of stairs including to the basement where her laundry area is. She lives in Gaylord, Michigan and I am a few hours away in Holland. We’d like to move her to an assisted living community near me this summer so she has time to learn her way around while she still has some of her vision remaining. I’m wondering if assisted living communities can accommodate visually impaired residents?
Alan in Holland, Michigan
I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s diagnosis. I’m sure that has been difficult for her and for you. It is wise to be proactive in moving her closer to you and to a more supportive environment while she is still somewhat independent. The answer to your question is “Yes” we can accommodate visually impaired residents in our assisted living communities. A number of the older adults that call our communities home have vision problems ranging from Glaucoma to Macular Degeneration. Assisted living supports their independence in a variety of ways.
First, our safety features make it easier for residents with vision problems to find their way around. From handrails in the hallways to grab bars in the bathrooms the environment is designed to support older adults. Our caregivers can also provide assistance as necessary with bathing, grooming, dressing and escorting your mom around the community. Finally, the life enrichment activities each of our communities’ offer are designed to allow people with impairments of all types to participate. All of this support can help residents with Macular Degeneration enjoy a higher quality of life.
I hope this answers your question, Alan! Please let us know if you need help finding assisted living in the Holland, Michigan area. We have a variety of senior living options in western Michigan that might be a perfect fit for her needs including some new ones that are opening this year!
We’ve shared information and safety tips on senior citizens and driving before in our blog. In Exercises for Older Drivers in Michigan, we talked about a few fitness programs designed specifically to help improve flexibility in older drivers. Today we thought it would help if we shared some of the equipment and tools you can use to help modify a senior loved one’s car to make driving a little easier for them.
Equipment to Support Older Drivers
Here is a list of driving aids that can help keep your aging driver safer getting in and out of the car, as well as once they hit the highway.
- Swivel Seat Cushion. Seniors experience the greatest percentage of driving related falls as they are entering and exiting their car. These cushions are placed on the driver’s seat and swivel a full 360 degrees. It makes it easier and safer for an older driver to get behind the wheel.
- Support Handles. These are another type of aid that makes getting in and out of the car a little safer. They attach to the car’s door frame so a senior or an individual with a disability can use it to pull themselves out or hold on to as they are sliding in to their seat.
- Seat Belt Handles. Arthritis and other degenerative diseases can make reaching over the shoulder to grab a seat belt painful. These handles give the senior an additional four to six inches of reach. That makes it easier to pull the seat belt closed.
- Mirror Adaptors. There are a variety of products that adapt the car’s mirrors to make them easier for seniors to see. One type of product is a panoramic mirror that clips on to the rear view mirror and widens the view. Another mirror product is one that attaches to side view mirrors so older adults can see if anyone is in their blind spot.
- Foot Pedal Extenders. This helpful aid extends the length of the vehicle’s pedals. It makes it easier for older adults to reach the pedals while also keeping them from having to sit too close to the wheel. Most of these products that are currently on the market range offer an additional one to four inches of extension and have a non-skid surface.
If you know of a senior driving safety tool that we’ve missed, please feel free to share it in the comments area below!