Caring for a dementia patient can be incredibly challenging. Dementia patients often become disoriented, even in familiar places, and six out of ten of then will exhibit wandering behaviors at some point during the course of their disease progressions.
Many family caregivers assume that only late-stage dementia patients will wander off, but this kind of confusion and disorientation can begin even in the early stage of the disease.
Read on to find out about how to prevent it.
Don’t leave dementia sufferers unsupervised, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. That means never leaving a family member with dementia at home alone or sitting in a car without someone else in it, even for a short period.
Family caregivers who find that round-the-clock supervision is taking a toll on their own mental health can enlist the help of respite caregivers if they need a break or learn more from brandycare.com about their other options.
Ensure that Basic Needs Are Met
Dementia sufferers are more likely to wander out of their homes if they have basic needs that are not being met. This can pose a challenge for caregivers since many people with dementia are unable to recognize and express when they need food, water, or help with getting to the bathroom or dealing with other challenges. Check-in frequently to make sure the patient doesn’t need anything.
Place Locks High or Low on the Door
Placing exterior door locks out of the dementia sufferer’s immediate line of sight can make it more difficult for them to get outside. Some homeowners also place slide bolts at the top or bottom of the door or install devices that signal when it has been opened.
These devices vary from complicated electrical alarms to simple bells placed above the door that ring when it’s opened.
If a dementia sufferer expresses disorientation or feelings of being lost, caregivers should provide reassurance and redirect the person’s attention. Many people with dementia forget that they have moved to a new home or have retired from their jobs, so they may try to leave the house in an attempt to get home or to work.
Instead of correcting dementia patients when they do this, family caregivers should respond by reassuring them that they are safe and redirecting their attention to another activity.
Have a Plan in Place
Even caregivers who have locks and alarms installed on every door and make plans never to leave their charges at home alone may eventually have to deal with one or more wandering incidents. Having a plan in place can make this ordeal much less stressful.
Keep a list of family members, neighbors, and friends by the phone to make it easier to call for help, and have a recent photo of the dementia sufferer and his or her updated medical information on-hand to give to the police. It can also help to keep a list of places the person may attempt to visit, such as former homes, workplaces, or places of worship, and to enroll the person in a wandering response service.
The Bottom Line
There’s no surefire way to completely prevent wandering behaviors at home. That’s why many family caregivers eventually turn to memory care facilities that can provide a safe, secure environment for their loved ones.
If the wandering attempts become unmanageable or dangerous for the dementia sufferer, this may be the best solution.