Challenging Behaviors for the Caregiver
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By Elisabeth A Hinman-Smith M.S.W. & Lisa P. Gwyther M.S.W.
Here are some ideas and suggestions for keeping a wandering person safe and for being prepared if wandering occurs.
Be sure the person with Alzheimer's disease (AD) gets plenty of exercise.
Invest in warm boots, waterproof coats, sun hats, and other protective clothing for both the person with AD and the accompanying walker.
Through regular exercise, you may be able to avoid restlessness and possible agitation. In inclement weather, use the enclosed shopping malls for your exercise.
Use a bean bag chair, recliner chair, or geriatric chair, for the AD person.
It is comfortable and yet restrictive to the body because it is difficult to get out without assistance.
"Child-safe" door knob covers fit loosely over the knob so that only the cover turns not the knob itself. (Available at children's department stores)
Alarm systems, although costly and varied in methodology, may be appropriate.
A simple change in a door latch may be enough to stop the wanderer. Some families have securely fenced in their yard or secured their patios so that fresh air, exercise, a change of scenery and safety can be combined. A simple bell or string of bells hanging on the door may work. A jingle will notify you the door is being opened or closed.
Keep a recent, good clear photo.
Keep a list of neighbors and their phone numbers.
Having a video of the person with AD may be helpful.
Augment the diagnosed person's wardrobe with brightly colored clothing.
Bicycle reflectors can be sewn onto jacket sleeves. For some individuals with AD, a 2-foot black painted threshold in front of the door may be perceived as a hole and a place to be avoided. Some people will not go out without pocketbook, proper shoes, glasses, etc. If so, hide the article without which the person with AD won't leave home.
There are some "gadgets" available that beep when you clap or whistle. They may be helpful when trying to locate a missing person. Keep an article of unwashed worn clothing in a plastic bag. (Used with search dogs)
Be sure you know whether the diagnosed person is right-handed or left-handed. When wandering occurs, the person with AD generally follows the direction of dominant hand. An intrusion burglar alarm by the bed will alert you if the diagnosed person attempts to leave.
Keep environment safe and familiar. If the person with AD has recently moved, reassure them that this is home now. Observe if wandering behavior comes at a regular time each day, and try to find a cause. Try to distract the individual to another activity but do not confront angrily or they may overreact.
If night wandering is a problem: make sure the person has restricted fluids in the evening and has gone to the bathroom just before bed.
If possible, limit day time naps.
Use of a calm and gentle tone may persuade the person back to sleep.
If the person with AD desires to sleep in a chair or in daytime clothes, use your judgment; it is not worth a catastrophic reaction!
Be sure home is as safe as possible by putting furniture against walls, removing obstacles in paths and using rounded cornered furniture .
Locks or fasteners on bottoms and tops of doors can be helpful.
Use of the double bolt door lock can help. (Keep key handy for emergencies.)
Unused exit doors and windows should be securely locked with a key.
If Person is Missing: This is What You Should Do
Search the immediate vicinity.
Call the Police.
Notify neighbors, family, friends and community groups (such as your church or clubs you may belong to) who can assist with search.
Have someone stay by the phone and keep the line open as much as possible. If many outgoing calls need to be made, use a neighbor's phone.
Try to think of all the possible places the missing person could go or be trying to get to, and have them searched.
Places and questions to consider are:
Has the person wandered before?
Is there a pattern where they go?
How easily do they relate to strangers?
What was their occupation?
Where was the person employed in the past?
Where was their childhood home?
Are there addresses from other homes which match local addresses?
Does the person have family/friends in other states/communities that they may try to visit?
Any special interest/hobbies that might lead the person to a specific location?
Can they follow/read road or traffic signs?
Did they take a car?
Do they have access to money/credit cards?
If female, what is her maiden name?
Consider the unique environmental risks in the local community: Weather (extreme heat or cold), woods or water, parks, highway, trains, bus stop, rural risks such as large fields, urban risks such as getting into a cab.
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