Friday, March 5, 2010

A Way to Keep Your Parent From Wandering


Wandering can be a deadly word. If your parent suffers from dementia and lives at home with a spouse or caregiver, slipping out the door may spell death.

You've heard the stories: "Mom wandered out into the street, but fortunately a police officer found her." "Grandma walked to the park looking for her granddaughter."

Often one wandering incident prompts the family to place their loved one in a secured memory support community, and understandably so, since safety is a life-and-death matter.

Sometimes a wanderer is otherwise appropriate for living at home, however. The caregiver is handling the situation well. He or she is learning all about the disease and how to manage behaviors. If support is needed, he or she is receiving help with such tasks as preparing meals and cleaning house. So does a wanderer always have to live in a secured unit?

My friend Luise Volta is a wonderful caregiver for her husband, Val. She gave me some clarity on this issue in an email last week:

"I had a scare on Monday night when Val left the house in the middle of the night in his pajamas. I heard the front door and intercepted him out on the sidewalk. Got him back to bed but there was no sleep for me!"

The next morning she found "The Alzheimer's Store" and ordered key pad alarms (pictured above) for both doors by overnight UPS. They are similar to those installed in nursing homes. The device sounds an alarm if anyone tries to exit without punching the right "secret" code.

"I was able to figure them out, install and set them myself. What a relief,"
Luise added. For her, this system has proved an excellent solution. Living in a rented apartment, she was happy the system used double-sized thick tape, rather than screws, to adhere to the door.

The Alzheimer's Store also sells similar products such as an alarm which sounds in the caregiver's room, rather than at the front door.

Store owner Ellen Warner also suggests a redundant strategy. Besides a door alarm, she advises people to install a chain lock on the door near the knob so that if someone with dementia attempts to exit, the chain will slow him or her.

The Alzheimer's Store also carries information and products related to cueing, bathing, caregiver needs, fall prevention, incontinence management and more.

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