When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, the possibility of your family member wandering off is a very real one. The Alzheimer’s Association says that 6 put of 10 people who have this disease can exhibit the tendency to wander. In addition, wandering behavior just isn’t on foot, but it can happen if the person is also driving. The bad news is that if a wanderer isn’t found within a 24-hour period, the outcome can be a serious injury or even death. So, why does a person wander, how is it prevented, and what do you do if your loved one does wander off?
What causes wandering behavior?
It’s believed that there are three primary reasons that cause wandering in seniors. Any one of these reasons can set off the behavior:
- If the person is confused: If a person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, this person can become disoriented and confused easily about where they are. This person can even become lost within their own home. Additionally, Sundowner’s Syndrome can be an offshoot of dementia. This is when your loved one with this condition’s confusion and disorientation becomes worse as the sun goes down and after. So changes in the sunlight can then cause wandering.
- Feelings of compulsion: These feelings can prompt the urge where Alzheimer’s sufferers feel as if they should be somewhere else. It may not even be clear to the person affected either where that is, just that they must leave and that it’s an irresistible urge that’s difficult to ignore.
- The person wants to go home: When people have this type of issue, even though they may have been in the same home for years, that home is not where they want to be. It could be a childhood home that they’re yearning for then. This type of behavior is especially dangerous because the people affected will do anything possible to get to where they want or think they should be.
How to prevent wandering behavior?
Caring for a family member who has wandering issues can be difficult for the caregiver. If the wandering problem is serious enough, then the senior can’t be left alone. So below are some suggestions to help prevent wandering behavior:
- If you loved one is a wanderer, introduce the senior to neighbors who can be trusted within a block radius. If the loved one escapes then, the neighbors can help to keep an eye out for him or her.
- You can enroll your senior in the local “Silver Alert” directory or something similar. This is similar to the “Amber Alert” only it’s for seniors instead of children.
- To keep your loved one from wandering at night, install hard to reach locks on doors and windows may also need bars installed.
- Hire an at home caregiver to help with care and provide extra supervision.
If your loved one wanders off
If your loved one does wander off, call the authorities. The sooner your loved one is found, the better. There are also services which charge a monthly fee that provide technology for enrolled seniors which will pinpoint exactly where that person is should wandering occur. This type of company will work with law enforcement to have your loved one returned safely.
When your loved one has wandering issues, keeping the person safe is your main priority.