Take a moment to imagine being in the middle of a crowded, unfamiliar place.
How do you feel? Confused? Frustrated? Lost?
Now imagine feeling like this in your own home. It seems nearly impossible since you’re so accustomed to that familiar environment.
For people with dementia, feeling disoriented in familiar settings is quite common and can often lead to them wandering to less secure places. At Freedom, we even receive phone calls from adult children in a panic about their older loved ones and their tendency to meander.
If you are concerned about your older loved one wandering, planning ahead is vital to his or her well-being.
- Carry out daily activities – Have a routine that provides your loved one with structure. Find out more about creating a daily plan.
- Identify the time of day wandering may occur – If you notice your loved one becoming more anxious at a certain time, plan an activity for him – preferably one that promotes physical activity to help reduce anxiety.
- Reassure your loved one if he or she feels lost – If the individual feeling disoriented wants to go home, even though they are home, use effective communication techniques and don’t correct her. Explain to your loved one that staying put for the day or night is safer and that you will take her home later.
- Ensure that all needs are met – Is your loved one hungry or has to use the bathroom? Make sure that his needs have been fulfilled so he won’t become confused doing it himself.
- Avoid busy places – If your loved one tends to become easily confused, don’t take her to shopping malls, grocery stores, etc.
- Disguise doors and doorknobs in the home – Paint all doors the same colors as the walls so they’re not easily recognizable. Attempt to cover doorknobs with cloth the same color as the door or use childproof knobs.
- Use a device that signals when doors have been opened – Using an object as simple as a bell could save you and your loved one a lot of headaches!
- Provide supervision – Don’t leave your loved one alone in a crowded place or car.
- Keep keys out of sight – If your loved one doesn’t see keys lying around, then he may not think about leaving.
- Prepare at night – Make sure your loved one avoids fluids and uses the bathroom before bedtime. Nightlights throughout the home are also a good idea.
Wandering is frightening for the older adult and caregiver. If you are interested in putting your mind at ease, the Alzheimer’s Association has introduced the “Safe Return” program. Click here for more information.