Monday, September 25, 2017
Devices for Wandering Residents
Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. A person with Alzheimer's may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it. Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering. Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused for a period of time. It's important to plan ahead for this type of situation. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs: Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual Forgets how to get to familiar places. Talks about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work Tries or wants to "go home," even when at home Is restless, paces or makes repetitive movements Has difficulty locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or dining room Asks the whereabouts of past friends and family Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done (e.g., moves around pots and dirt without actually planting anything) Acts nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or restaurants. Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. Use the following strategies to help lower the chances: Having a routine can provide structure. Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur for your loved one and plan activities at that time. Activities and exercise can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness. If the person with dementia wants to leave to "go home" or "go to work," use communication that reassures them; refrain from correcting the person. For example, "We are staying here tonight. We are safe and I'll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night's rest." Has your loved one gone to the bathroom? Is he or she thirsty or hungry? Make sure all their basic needs are met. Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation. This could be a shopping malls, grocery stores or other busy venues. Consider a “Wandering Prevention Device”. Locally, Niagara County Office for the Aging and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department are partnering to provide a free device and monitoring for wandering prevention. According to Maggie Hempel, Case Manager/ Senior Services at Niagara County Office for the Aging, “I wish more people would take advantage of it. It keeps your loved one safe and gives you, the caregiver, peace of mind. It prevents the crisis from happening.” The first call is to Maggie Hempel at the Office for the Aging. She can be reached at 438-4036 or via email at Maggie.firstname.lastname@example.org. During a care consultation meeting, the risk of wandering is assessed. Maggie meets with caregivers of all ages who are caring for people with a memory deficiency – which can be caused by dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or other conditions. Then, arrangements are made with the Sheriff’s department for the device, which attaches to the wrist similar to a watch. It is easy to put on by the caregiver, but difficult to remove. Niagara County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 438-3331. Ongoing monitoring is also provided. The Office for the Aging will assist the caregiver with set up, programming the monitoring range and setting up the phone alerts. The monitoring range establishes safety zones; when a loved one wanders beyond the safety zone, the designated caregiver receives a transmission on their phone that alerts them that their loved one is wandering. This is a great example of a partnership that is keeping the at-risk residents of the community safe. I agree with Maggie Hempel that it has the potential to prevent a crisis from happening. I hope that if you are a caregiver and your loved one is showing signs that he or she is at risk of wandering that you will call about the wandering prevention device and other caregiver services available.