Those of us who are caregivers working with seniors know the risk of wandering all to well. Cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia are associated with wandering in seniors.
But how do caregivers decrease wandering risk? The following is part one to this definitive guide series.
How Many Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease Wander?
Did you know that around 60 percent of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will wander? If you take the number of people with Alzheimer’s in North America and apply this percentage, you have nearly the entire population of Oklahoma state wandering.
That is definitely a sobering and frightening statistic. Wandering in seniors is a serious issue. More often than not, seniors will wander into dangerous, life-threatening situations.
You may even think locked doors and even windows will keep seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia from wandering. But veteran caregivers know that this is not the case. Many seniors become escape artists of the highest order.
How Do You Keep Your Loved One From Wandering?
If you received a call from the local law enforcement agency, you know that wandering is challenging to stop, if not impossible. What you can do is switch your thinking from “if” to “when.”
This means taking a proactive approach to wandering management. When you begin to understand the reasons for it, you can begin managing the situations that WILL cause it.
The first step is to plan for wandering by getting a GPS watch or GPS tracker. This will help you track and locate your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia quickly. And hopefully before they become injured.
How Caregivers can Begin to Manage Wandering in Seniors
Once you have prepared for a wandering incident by having a GPS watch or GPS tracker on your loved one, you can begin management tasks. In order to do this, you need to figure out what your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is trying to do. Also, try to define where they want to go.
The mind is a logbook of previous routines. These routines can become reality for seniors with cognitive issues. For example, if your loved one suddenly reverts back to his or her work routine, they may be trying to get to work. And subsequently going in that direction if they still live in their old community.
The worst thing a caregiver can do is to assume that a senior is wandering simply to wander. There is normally always a root cause for their decision to head out and start walking.
Getting the facts can be challenging though. Caregivers are flush with daily tasks and trying to manage their own lives as well. In some cases, you can just ask your loved one what they are doing, where they are going, and why.
In other cases, you may be playing the guessing game for some time before getting to the bottom of the urge to wander.
Caregivers Can Seek Support
Remember, developing interventions can help. You can even reach out to community experts for support and advice. Wandering is definitely not a one-size-fits-all issue. Every senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia has his or her own reasons for wandering.
This introduction to wandering lays the groundwork for what’s to come. Management and understanding more about wandering is the first step. In part two we will discuss how to analyze your love one’s behavior in an efficient way.
Caregivers that are proactive can decrease the risk in seniors. Check out part two for more information, coming soon!