Three out of every five people with Alzheimer’s will wander during the course of the disease, which is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes they might be roaming the streets with a specific purpose or goal in mind, or other times they might be searching for something they can’t find. Unfortunately, this symptom is especially dangerous and can even be life-threatening. Fewer than 4 out of every 100 adults with memory impairment who wander away from home are able to return without assistance. “If not found within the first 24 hours, half will experience serious injury or death,” says Peter Reed, PhD, senior director of programs for the Alzheimer’s Association.
All Alzheimer’s patients are at risk for wandering, but knowing the triggers of wandering episodes in your loved one can help to protect them from getting into a dangerous situation. Many factors can trigger wandering, but it is more likely to happen if your loved one shows these signs.
• Restless, pacing, or making repetitive motions
• Have trouble finding familiar places like the bathroom or kitchen
• Try to find where familiar people are
• Seems to be working on a hobby or chore, but gets nothing done
• Becomes lost or confused in a new environment
• Attempts to go to work
• Wants to “go home” even if they are already there
There are some methods of dissuading or preventing an Alzheimer’s patient from wandering such as these:
• Never leave them at home alone
• Encourage movement, exercise, and recreational activities such as music therapy or movie watching, especially if they are pacing or seem restless
• Making sure their basic needs, such as hunger, thirst, or bathroom necessities, are met, as they might wander to meet these needs
• Secure exit doors in a way that makes them difficult to open, or hide doorknobs or doors with cloth or curtains
• Place large signs on exits that say “Stop” or “Do Not Enter”
• Let neighbors and local police know about the person’s condition and keep a list of names and telephone numbers in case of an emergency.
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