Six of every ten patients suffering from dementia habitually wander. They may become disoriented, even in familiar spaces, and even forget their addresses, making it more difficult to get home. This can be dangerous, but there are steps that family caregivers can take to help prevent the problem.
Find a Safe Environment
By far the most effective way to curb wandering behaviors is to find an assisted living community with a memory care unit. This kind of living situation will give seniors all the comforts of home while also providing the supervision they need to remain safe. Visit mcknightplace.com to learn about one well-respected assisted living community that provides specialized care for dementia patients.
Ensure the Senior’s Basic Needs Are Met
Elderly loved ones who live at home can be harder to dissuade from wandering. The first step to take is to ensure that the person’s basic needs are met at all times. This prevents unnecessary, aimless wandering around the home, which can quickly escalate to attempts to leave.
Keep the senior’s home stocked with everything he or she needs. A dementia patient who notices that there’s not enough toilet paper in the house might still remember that buying toilet paper requires going to the store, which can be enough to motivate wandering outside the house even if the store is miles away.
Provide Adequate Supervision
It’s not always possible to provide 24/7 supervision at home. After all, family caregivers still have their own lives to live. Consider purchasing specialized devices that signal when a door has been opened to make it easier to get things done around the house and make sure someone is home during transition periods.
It’s important to take time off from work or social responsibilities after a move or a major change in the home. Chances are, the dementia patient won’t remember where the bathroom is in a new house or how to find food in a newly remodeled kitchen.
Place Locks and Keys Out of Sight Lines
Providing supervision for dementia patients at home is one instance where the old axiom, “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. Installing door locks unusually high or low on the home’s exterior doors makes it easier to prevent escapes. Restricting access to car keys is also important, as people with dementia often forget that they have lost their driving privileges.
Avoid Busy Places
Dementia-afflicted seniors often become confused and overwhelmed in busy public places like shopping malls, stores, or public squares. This can create dangerous situations.
Try to avoid taking seniors to busy places, instead of focusing on activities outside the home that promote a calm atmosphere or can be performed in a familiar environment. While dementia patients should stay as active as possible, it’s fine to admit that certain activities will no longer be fun for anyone involved.
The Bottom Line
Caring for a dementia patient at home can be incredibly stressful, especially for caregivers who must balance other work or family responsibilities. The safest place for dementia patients is always a specialized memory care unit. Family members or friends who plan to move in with their loved ones or have them move to their own homes should be prepared to spend a lot of their time providing supervision and make appropriate changes around the home in advance.