Prevent Wandering Program Launched to Help keep Seniors with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Safe #wellbeingwednesday
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are usually slow and progressive illnesses that can have a dramatic impact on how an individual thinks, feels and acts. Often, impairment to cognitive and functional capabilities can lead to senior loved ones inadvertently putting themselves in harm’s way.
One of the biggest dangers and points of anxiety for family caregivers is that their loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia will wander from home and become lost. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Society of Canada six out of 10 or, 450,000 Canadians, living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia will wander at least once. This number is expected to double by 2031 in absence of a cure.
With this in mind, it’s critical that family caregivers take precautionary measures to help curb the risk of wandering and put safeguards in place to help locate missing seniors who do wander as quickly as possible. Doing so will go a long way in keeping aging adults safe and provide increased peace of mind for family caregivers.
Who’s at risk of wandering?
The reality is that any senior living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related illnesses are at risk of wandering and the behaviour can affect individuals in all stages of the disease, as long as they’re mobile. Wandering can happen at any time and is not just limited to seniors on foot, as individuals in wheelchairs and other mobility aids are capable of wandering as well
A recent survey conducted by Home Instead Senior Care revealed that nearly 50 per cent of families have experienced a loved one with Alzheimer’s wandering or getting lost. Of those, nearly one in five called the police for assistance. Understanding why a senior may wander goes a long way in helping to prevent wandering episodes and locate missing loved ones without the need for police assistance.
While you can’t stop someone with Alzheimer’s from experiencing the urge to wander, being able to recognize the triggers and warning signs that indicate a senior loved one is likely to wander will help to prevent wandering occurrences. Some common warning signs to watch for include: delusions and hallucinations, overstimulation, fatigue, disorientation to time and place and change in routine.
Proactive Steps to Help Keep Seniors Safe
To help families take proactive precautions in advance of a wandering event, Home Instead Senior Care has launched the Missing Senior Network to improve the response process when an aging adult does wander or get lost. The free alert system is now available in Toronto and enables family caregivers to alert a network of friends, family and businesses to be on the lookout for a missing senior via text or email. Families can also choose to post an alert to the Home Instead Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page, which is connected to 270,000 followers.
In addition to setting up an alert network with the Missing Senior Network, other proactive steps families can take to help manage wandering behaviours include ensuring senior loved ones who may be a wandering risk always wear some sort of identification, such as an ID bracelet and by preparing the home for wandering. This can include closing off certain parts of a room or locking doors to help create a path that is less likely to cause individuals with Alzheimer’s to become disoriented or confused. You can also use higher security locks that will prevent someone with Alzheimer’s from wandering out of the home in the middle of the night.
To minimize the dangers associated with wandering as much as possible it’s critical for families to understand what triggers these events and take proactive steps to improve the response time when a senior loved one does wander and get lost. Learning as much as you can about Alzheimer’s and dementia-related wandering and taking proactive prevention steps will go a long way in not only keeping senior loved ones safe but also reducing caregiver anxiety. Retirement communities and assisted living options like The Hermitage of Northern Virginia has nursing home capabilities in Alexandria as part of their CCRC offering. Such services are more than able and trained in assisting the elderly that could be prone to wandering, as well as more.
Family caregivers can sign up for the new tool and create an alert network at MissingSeniorNetwork.ca and learn more about Alzheimer’s and Dementia related wandering at www.preventwandering.ca. Additionally, the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Toronto central can be reached at (416) 972-5096 or online at homeinstead.ca
By: Bruce Mahony, Managing Director Home Instead Senior Care Toronto Central