One of the biggest concerns for families or caregivers for people with cognitive problems is wandering. It can cause them to fall or become lost and confused. Resident elopement in nursing homes is also a major concern.
If your loved one is living independently, then wandering might be a sign that it is time to move them into a care facility. However, if it is not the right time for that, then here is some advice for preventing wandering and minimising the risks.
Secure The Home
If your loved one lives with you, then you may need to install locks on your windows or doors that they can’t open easily. You can also put bells over doors so that you can hear when they try to open them.
You could also consider smart homes. You can get motion detectors which will alert you as they leave the house; this is also an option if they don’t live with you.
Encourage Them to Carry ID
Try and encourage your loved one to carry their ID with them. That way, if they do become lost, someone will be able to help. Put it in their wallet or purse; or if they often go out without it, consider a bracelet with their information in it.
Most phones have a way that you can track them. Other options are bracelets, and you can find some information on them here. Although this will not prevent them from wandering, it will allow you to find them quickly if they do.
Sometimes wandering may be a result of sleeplessness. Try and encourage them to have a good sleep schedule.
Get to Know Their Neighbours
Neighbours can be a great help in keeping your loved one safe. Whether they live with you or on their own, get to know their neighbours. Give them your number and get them to call you if they notice anything strange.
Put Up Signs
Sometimes, signs on the door saying, “Stop” might help. You could also put signs in places like the bathroom so they can see what door leads to what and they don’t accidentally end up outside.
Encourage Physical Activity
This doesn’t work for everyone but sometimes, an exercise during the day can stop night-time wandering. Find an exercise DVD or a class that they can go to.
Consider the Cause
Sometimes there is an underlying cause. For example, an elderly person with dementia may be hungry or thirsty at night and then forget what they were doing. Leave some water or food by their bed. For people with autism, they might be fixated on a sound and want to investigate. Knowing the cause may allow you to put things in place to prevent it.
What to Do If They Do Wander
If they have wandered and you don’t know where they are, you should phone the police. If it continues to be a consistent problem, then it may be a sign that you need more help.