For Michigan caregivers of an aging parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most frightening behaviors is an unfortunately common one. Wandering is generally believed to be a means of attempting to communicate after language skills are largely gone.

A person living with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize their surroundings any longer. They may be trying to find their way “home” where home is a place they lived as a child or young adult. It might be that they are hungry or thirsty or need to use the restroom and don’t know where or how to find help. Whatever the reason, wandering causes stress and concern for caregivers trying to keep them safe.

5 Tips to help Michigan caregivers decrease a loved one’s wandering

What can you do to try to decrease the odds that your aging loved one will wander? Here are a few recommendations to try:

  1. Keep a clear path for your loved one to safely pace indoors. That means packing up throw rugs and eliminating clutter.
  2. Store potential “leaving cues” out of plain sight. Items like car keys, coats, mittens, and umbrellas should be kept in a closet or cupboard. It isn’t always as convenient, but it may prevent their mind from being triggered to the fact that an exterior door is nearby.
  3. Installing an additional lock at the top of all exterior doors might also help. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person’s gaze often becomes directed down toward their feet. A lock that is located higher on the door will be out of their line of vision.
  4. Paint the interior side of exit doors the same color as the walls. That will make them harder to distinguish and less likely to attract attention if your loved one is seeking an exit.
  5. Another common strategy used in senior living communities is one that is very easy to implement at home. Consider placing STOP or DO NOT ENTER signs on the inside of exterior doors. These universal signs and symbols are recognizable to even those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Prepare Ahead in Case a Senior Loved One Wanders

If the unthinkable happens and your loved one does wander away, having an emergency plan in place can minimize the time it takes to find them. Some preventative measures you can take care in case a crisis happens include:

  1. Always have a recent photo of them available. A digital photo that can be quickly emailed to media is even better.
  2. As much as you don’t want to hurt the dignity of your loved one, consider labeling their clothing with tags containing their name and your phone number.
  3. Don’t hesitate to call 911 as soon as you realize your loved one is missing. Every minute counts in helping them make a safe return home.
  4. The Alzheimer’s Association offers several GPS tracking programs you can use called, ComfortZone and Comfort Check-In. They use cellular technology to help you monitor your loved one’s location.

Are you caring for a loved one who wanders? Have we missed anything you’ve found to be of help?