Alzheimer's advocates stress importance of safety for caregivers


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) – After a Sumter woman coping with Alzheimer's disappeared Monday and was found safe in Mississippi, Alzheimer's advocates are offering tips to help keep loved ones safe.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, six in 10 people with dementia will wander and become lost. Very often, they will do it repeatedly. If they aren't found within 24 hours, up to half of them will suffer serious injuries, even death.

The Alzheimer's Association provides caregivers with information and resources to help them think about safety when they are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

The disease causes a number of changes in the brain and body that have the potential to affect safety. Depending on the stage of the disease, those changes can alter a person's sense of time and place, like getting lost on one’s own street and behavior, like becoming easily confused, suspicious or fearful. Those changes, along with others, can lead a loved one with dementia to get lost or wander.

Alzheimer's advocates say it is important to be aware of the risk factors that can be linked to a person who could be prone to wandering behavior. That person may do all or some of the following:

- Forgets how to get to familiar places.

- Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual.

- Talks about fulfilling former obligations, like going to work.

- Tries or wants to “go home,” even when at home.

- Is restless, makes repetitive movements or paces.

- Has a hard time locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or dining room.

- Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done (e.g., moves around pots and dirt without actually planting anything).

- Acts nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or restaurants.

The Alzheimer's Association also recommends a number of steps people can take to reduce the risk of a person wandering:

- Provide opportunities for the person to engage in structured, meaningful activities throughout the day.

- Make sure the person gets some exercise, which can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.

- Place deadbolts either high or low on exterior doors if you worry about wandering at night.

- If the person is no longer driving, remove access to car keys — a person with dementia may not just wander by foot. The person may forget that he or she can no longer drive.

- Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised in new surroundings.

For more information click here, or call the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900.

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