Professionals, Home Caregivers and even Family Members who manage communities, facilities or just their own home, have to be aware of Wandering as a symptom in our senior population. Seniors can find themselves in what seems to be unfamiliar environments and they look for ways to leave wherever they are. Many times they want to go home when they are already there. Perhaps they want to go to the home they remember in younger years. Dementia and Alzheimer's is a disease that plays tricks with our brain (a very non medical way to explain this disease).When Alzheimer's and Dementia patients find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, they frequently wander.They are attempting to make sense of the world around them. Patients will sometimes leave clues that they are about to wander by announcing that it is time to go to work or that they are going home now. At other times they will just start going into dangerous areas or simply leave the premises. Locked doors can sometimes add to frustration and make situations worse.
At this point those responsible for the safety of an individual need to take some steps to be proactive. From a simple sign to modern technology, there are practical solutions to try to prevent a disoriented person from getting into harms way. As a person starts to lose their cognitive thoughts, they still recognize memories and facts they had in their early years. One of the first ones is a simple STOP SIGN. This can be a decal or a banner placed on doors or areas that should not be entered. Just like seeing a red light. There are commercial fire rated door murals that can disguise a door to the point that it simply disappears. There is a facility in Florida that was told by the fire marshal that they had to remove the mural as the firemen might not find the exit (even though there was a red EXIT sign above it). Signs can be placed on doors leading to stairs or utility closets or other areas that need not be accessed but that are in frequent use.
Door alarms are an easy solution, with chimes that can be placed so that a caregiver can always be able to be alerted when a door, especially the front door is opened. A little more sophisticated is a door alarm with a key pad that still allows free access but will signal when the proper code is not entered. Indoor motion sensors are also a great tool especially in hallways at night. Many times wandering can start when someone is restless in bed or a chair and the caregiver is busy elsewhere. There are patient monitoring pads that are connected to a remote alarm for a bed, chair or even a mat. When they are activated, the caregiver can be alerted from a distance of up to 100 feet away and can even speak into an open transmitter telling their patient to please wait for they are coming to assist them.
The newest technology is a GPS watch that can communicate with any computer so a person can be tracked. If they wander outside of a certain preset area, the person responding will automatically be alerted by phone or text. The person wearing the device, that can be attached to their wrist like a hospital band, can be tracked on the computer. All those responsible in a community need to be made aware of warning signs and put a protocol into effect that can protect our loved ones as we are our brother's keeper.