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Monday September 22, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Wandering Solutions for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

My mother, who lives with me, has Alzheimer’s disease and I worry about her wandering away. What tips can you recommend to help me protect her?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 60% of people who suffer from dementia wander at some point. This can be frightening for caregivers because many of those who wander off end up confused, lost and unable to communicate who they are or where they live. This can happen even in a familiar neighborhood. However, there are steps you can take to guard against this and protect your loved one.

Wandering Prevention


To help reduce your mom’s tendency to wander, keep her occupied and involved in familiar daily activities such as preparing dinner or folding the laundry. It is also important to encourage daily exercise and limit daytime napping to reduce nighttime restlessness.

There are also a number of simple home modifications you can make to keep her from wandering away. Some possible solutions include: adding an extra lock on the top or bottom of any exterior doors that are out of your line of sight, installing child-proof door knobs or levers, placing a full-length mirror or a “STOP” or “Do Not Enter” sign on the doors you don’t want her going through or getting a signal device or motion sensor that lets you know when the door is opened. See alzstore.com for a variety of product solutions. Also, be sure you hide the car keys to keep her from driving.

It’s also a good idea to alert your neighbors that your mom may wander so they can keep an eye out for her. You may want to have a recent picture on hand to show around the neighborhood or to the police if she does get lost.

Wandering Services


If you want some added protection in case she does wander off, there are a number of services you can turn to for help.

One service is the MedicAlert + Safe Return program (medicalert.org/safereturn). This service comes with a personalized ID bracelet that will have your mom’s medical information engraved on it, along with her membership number and the toll-free MedicAlert emergency phone number.

If she goes missing, you would call 911 and report it to the local police department who would begin a search and then report it to MedicAlert. It is also possible a Good Samaritan or police officer may find her, call the MedicAlert number and get her back home safely.

Depending on where you live, another option that could help is a radio frequency locater service like SafetyNet or Project Lifesaver, which are offered by some local law enforcement agencies.

These services would require your mother to wear a wristband containing a radio transmitter that emits tracking signals. If she goes missing, you would contact the local authorities who would send out rescue personnel to locate her. Visit safetynetbylojack.com or projectlifesaver.org to see if these services are available in your community.

GPS Tracking


There are also a number of GPS tracking devices that can help you keep tabs on your mom. These products require your mom to carry or wear a small GPS tracker that would notify you or other caregivers via text message or email if she were to wander beyond a pre-established area.

To find GPS trackers, consider the PocketFinder (pocketfinder.com) or the Alzheimer’s Association Comfort Zone (alz.org/comfortzone). If you have concerns that your mother wouldn’t wear a GPS device or would take it off, there’s the GPS SmartSole (gpssmartsole.com), which is an insole with an embedded GPS device.

For more wandering prevention tips and solutions, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Safety Center at alz.org/safety and This Caring Home at thiscaringhome.org.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published September 19, 2014

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