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Caring for a Wandering Alzheimer's Patient
Source: The Care Guide
Wandering around the house may be irritating to the caregiver, but not
necessarily unsafe for the patient. In this case, you may need to adjust your
anxiety level about wandering.
Two characteristic precursors to wandering are restlessness and
disorientation. Redirecting behaviors, distracting, orienting, and encouraging
physical exercise therefore, serve to reduce the incidence of wandering. Some
- Remove clutter and clear the pathways from room to room to allow the person
with Alzheimer's disease to move about more freely.
- Make sure floors provide good traction for walking or pacing. Use nonskid
floor wax or leave floors unpolished. Secure all rug edges, eliminate throw
rugs, or install nonskid strips. The person with Alzheimer's disease should wear
nonskid shoes or sneakers.
- Place locks on exit doors high or low on the door out of direct sight.
Consider double locks that require a key. Keep a key for yourself and hide one
near the door for emergency exit purposes.
- Use loosely fitting doorknob covers so that the cover turns instead of the
actual knob. Due to the potential hazard they could cause if an emergency exit
is needed, locked doors and doorknob covers should be used only when a caregiver
- Install safety devices found in hardware stores to limit the distance that
windows can be opened.
- If possible, secure the yard with fencing and a locked gate. Use door alarms
such as loose bells above the door or devices that ring when the doorknob is
touched or the door is opened.
- Divert the attention of the person with Alzheimer's disease away from using
the door by placing small scenic posters on the door; placing removable gates,
curtains, or brightly colored streamers across the door; or wallpapering the
door to match any adjoining walls.
- Place STOP, DO NOT ENTER, or CLOSED signs in strategic areas on doors.
- Reduce clues that symbolize departure such as shoes, keys, suitcases, coats,
- Obtain a medical identification bracelet for the person with Alzheimer's
disease with the words "memory loss" inscribed along with an emergency telephone
number. Place the bracelet on the person's dominant hand to limit the
possibility of removal, or solder the bracelet closed.
- Place labels in garments to aid in identification.
- Keep an article of the person's worn, unwashed clothing in a plastic bag to
aid in finding someone with the use of dogs.
- Notify neighbors of the person's potential to wander or become lost. Alert
them to contact you or the police immediately if the individual is seen alone
and on the move.
- Give local police, neighbors, and relatives a recent picture, along with the
name and pertinent information about the person with Alzheimer's disease, as a
precaution should he or she become lost. Keep extra pictures on hand.
- Consider making an up-to-date home video of the person with Alzheimer's
disease. Do not leave a person with Alzheimer's disease who has a history of
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