Alzheimer’s caregivers need to guard against wandering in the wintertime

| December 23, 2020

Wandering is one of the most unsettling behavioral changes common  for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Yet it surprises far too many family caregivers and can end with tragic results.

Six in 10 people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will wander. A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places.

As freezing temperatures and increased darkness settles in, those winter weather conditions add additional stress for more than 16 million people caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because people in the middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s experience losses in judgment, orientation, and the ability to understand and communicate effectively, they might think night is day, the past is the present and the immediate need to go somewhere can push them to leave the safety of their home.

Most individuals with Alzheimer’s are cared for by family members. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2020 Facts and Figures Report, 83 percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers and nearly half of all caregivers (48%) who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Also, family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are more likely than other family caregivers to help with emotional or mental health problems and behavioral changes like wandering.

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests the following tips for preventing wandering:

  • Have a routine for daily activities
  • Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur and plan activities at that time because activities can reduce restlessness
  • Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented
  • Place locks out of line of sight
  • Use devices that signal when a door or window are open

And most importantly, have a plan in place in case of emergency.

Individuals needing immediate advice should call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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