This winter, a number of Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S. and Canada have died while wandering — either by getting hit by cars or freezing to death.
SafetyNet General Manager John Paul Marosy, elder care expert and author of several caregiver books, offers the following advice, “There is no one single strategy that can protect loved ones with Alzheimer’s from wandering.The most effective approach involves multiple strategies, which in combination deliver the best protection for the person with Alzheimer’s and peace of mind for the caregiver.”
TIPS: Here is Marosy’s 10 Step Approach:
PROVIDE INFORMATION TO HELP WITH SEARCH AND RESCUE:
- Advise Local Responders First – Fill out a 911 disability indicator form and submit it to your local law enforcement agency. The information on the form alerts law enforcement that a person residing at that address may require special assistance during an emergency. Also, fill out a more detailed handout with this information that you can provide to first responders and search and rescue personnel in the event of a wandering incident.
- Inform Your Neighbors – Give your neighbors a similar handout with a picture of the person you are caring for, physical characteristics and emergency contact information. You may want to describe the person’s fears, habits and explain how to best communicate with and calm them. Ask them to contact you immediately if they see this person wandering outside their home.
- Tag Personal Items – List emergency contact information on tags in shoes and on clothing in case your loved one does wander.
SAFEGUARD THE LIVING SPACE – INSIDE AND OUT
- Hide Triggers that Might Encourage Departure – Remove items such as hats, coats, boots, scarves, keys and suitcases that may prompt your loved one to go outside.
- Hang a “Do Not Enter” Sign on the Door – This sign may help redirect and discourage the wanderer from opening the door.
- Install a Fence Around Your Property – Set latches on the outside of gates and ensure they are in an area where the person you are caring for can’t reach them.
- Use Simple Monitors, Remote Alerts and Locks – Attach monitors to the door that detects when it opens; use a caregiver chime alert unit, which sounds when the door is open; combine these with locks on all doors including front, garage and basement.
REGISTER AND/OR ENROLL IN PROGRAMS THAT PROMOTE A SAFE RESCUE
- Register Your Loved One’s Information – With information registered in a secure database, such as the National Silver Alert Program, emergency responders are provided with critical information necessary in the event of a wandering incident or a medical emergency.
- Consider an Identification Bracelet – An ID bracelet, like the one offered through the Alzheimer’s Association’s MedicAlert + Safe Return program, helps the police or a Good Samaritan get a missing person back home safely or medical attention.
- Consider a Program that Offers a Personal Tracking Device – Programs that feature personal tracking devices, such as SafetyNet, are a good way to help protect and locate someone in the event they do wander and give peace of mind to a caregiver. A Radio Frequency device is ideal for people at risk of wandering because, unlike GPS devices, it has strong signals that can penetrate water, dense foliage, concrete buildings and steel structures.