Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When Breadcrumbs Won't Work

A short time back we posted a blog about juveniles that slip out without being noticed and the panic that it can create.  We take just as many calls about missing adults that are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s.  The challenges are very similar with one exception – when people see a child wandering alone, everyone points it out but it’s not odd to see an adult out walking alone.

If you find yourself caring for or related in anyway to someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, this blogs for you.  We’ve taken some time to research the subject of adults who wander.  The Alzheimer’s Association had suggestions to help prevent wandering and what to do if your loved one does wander. 

The tips to help prevent wandering were as follows:

  • Carry out daily activities and have a routine.
  • Identify the most likely times of day that warning may occur. Plan activities at those times to prevent anxiety, agitation and restlessnes.
  • Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.
  • Ensure all basic needs are met.
  • Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation.
  • Place locks out of the line of sight.
  • Camouflage doors and door knobs by painting them the same color as the walls or covering them with removable curtains or screens.
  • Use devices that signal when a door or window is opened.
  • Provide supervision. Never lock them in a home alone or leave them in a car without supervision.
  • Keep car keys out of sight.
  • If night wandering is a problem make sure the person has restricted fluids two hours before bedtime and has gone to the bathroom just before bed.

The tips for what to do if your loved one does wander were:

  • Keep a list of people on call for help.
  • Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person alone.
  • Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to police.
  • Know your neighborhood and pinpoint potential dangerous areas near home.
  • Know if the person is left-hand or right-hand dominate. Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominate hand.
  • Keep a list of places where the person may wander.
  • Provide the person with ID jewelry.
  • Consider having the person carry or wear and electronic tracking GPS device that helps manage their location
  • If the person does wander, search the immediate area for no more than 15 minutes – then call 911.
One suggested program they mentioned on their website was MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return.  This program provides a personalized ID jewelry necklace or bracelet with a phone number and ID number for people to help identify the lost loved one when found.  The weblink http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp will provide you with further information.

We also found a website for the Next of Kin Registry (NOKR) http://nokr.org/nok/restricted/home.htm.  This free tool is a non-profit organization that was established so that your emergency contact information could be accessed in the event of an emergency.

Calls about missing loved ones that suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia can leave a lasting impression on those who respond on those calls.  No one wants to have to go through the worry, even for a short time.  These suggestions won’t prevent this from happening at all, but they might reduce the possibility and give you a plan for what to do if your loved one goes missing.