A few weeks ago, I had a client go missing. He walked out of his house early one morning while his wife was still sleeping. He was found 24 hours later, having walked for miles. There are more and more stories of seniors who walk out of their homes and get lost. Not all turn out as well as they did for my client, who was found with only blisters on his feet and nothing worse. Halton police are still looking for Helen who is a 79 year old woman with Alzheimer’s, who has been missing since July 5, 2016. Reportedly Helen had gone missing once before (in February) and was found 25 km from her home. There is a proverbial saying about closing the barn door after the horse has been stolen/has bolted. Prevention is the answer to many things and so this blog is about Wandering, Getting Lost and ways to prevent this from happening – at least for the second time.
The Alzheimers Association (alz.org) states that 6 in 10 people with dementia wander and while it is common, it can occur at any stage of the disease. In addition to strategies for keeping someone safe (SUPERVISION, having a routine, identifying particular times of day that wandering may be more frequent; reassuring the individual that they are safe; ensuring basic needs are met) there are a few other aids and devices that are worth trying. They include:
- Alarm alerts (doors that chime, when opened)
- Placing a secondary lock that is out of view (either high or low)
- Camouflaging doors ( drapery, paint or hanging a mural)
- Covering door knobs
Technology is fortunately keeping pace with this concern and we are seeing GPS tracking systems that can be worn as a watch or placed in clothing or in a shoe. Some personal emergency response systems are GPS enabled and have two way communication. Some are designed so safe zones and geo- fencing parameters can be set.
The Alzheimers Society of Canada has partnered with MedicAlert Foundation Canada and offer the ‘Safely Home’ program. The person’s medical information along with a hotline number are engraved on the ID which is worn as a bracelet. The emergency hot line number is staffed with trained specialists and will respond by notifying family when the person has been located and the hotline called. The person’s health records and photo along with emergency contact information are available to the police and responders.
Please consider these tips before the person who you care about and has dementia gets lost. For more information please contact the Alzheimers Society.