One of the biggest fears for family members is worrying about whether their mom or dad will wander away from home and get lost. Since dementia affects the memory, thinking and reasoning parts of the brain, this is not an unreasonable fear.
Here are some tips to help keep your mom or dad safe.
- Compile a contact list of people to call for help. This is a great role for an older teen or young adult. They are more likely to have their phone near them always (at least mine do) and would be able to field phone calls. They can pass on messages to the appropriate person.
- Provide the contact list to neighbours, friends and family and advise them to call if they see your mom or dad alone. I remember once finding an older gentleman alone and confused in a supermarket parking lot. I was so grateful when his neighbour recognized him and was able to take over from me and help him.
- Keep a recent, close-up photo of your mom or dad on hand. If you must search for them it is useful for people to know what they look like.
- Know your neighbourhood. There may be obvious danger spots where you would want to search first to make sure your mom or dad is not in immediate trouble.
- Keep a list of all the places where your mom or dad may wander. Think about places that are familiar to them or associated with things they used to do or were important to them. They may naturally be drawn to those places.
- Register with the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program. This is a great program designed specifically for individuals challenged by dementia.
- Consider an electronic locating device. There are unobtrusive devices that can be in shoes or wrist bands. If your mom or dad is a wanderer, these can be worth the peace of mind.
- Begin the search effort immediately and report the person missing after 15 minutes of searching. Because of their medical condition, the usual 24-hour rule does not apply.
An added tip is that wandering generally follows the direction of their dominant hand, so it’s useful to know if the person is right or left-handed. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 94% of people who wander are found within 2.5 kilometers of where they disappeared.
Most importantly, make sure you are taking care of yourself. You are a vital part of the care team – caring can’t happen without you – so you need to make sure you are also getting the support and rest you need.
Do you need help in the area of Dementia Care? Check out this available resource: Fit Minds Family Caregiver Program
Nicole has trained hundreds of professional and family caregivers who have touched the lives of thousands of individuals living with a cognitive impairment. Nicole also holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master’s in Law from Queen’s University specializing in Negotiations and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.