When a loved one starts developing symptoms of dementia, alzheimer’s, or other incapacities, the situation can easily become overwhelming for everyone involved in that person’s life. One of the chief concerns you may have is how to keep your incapacitated loved one safe if they begin to exhibit wandering behaviors. In fact, research has shown that roughly 60 percent of people with dementia wander.
Fortunately, if your loved one has the impulse to wander, there are some steps you can take to keep them from coming to harm.
- Plan Ahead
If your loved one is still in the early stage of their disease, you can speak with them about strategies that might reduce their risk of wandering. These can include:
- Choosing a set time of day to check in with each other.
- Start each day by reviewing scheduled activities and appointments together.
- If the person can still safely drive, install a GPS device in case they get lost.
- Decide on alternative forms of transportation if you begin to have concerns about their ability to drive safely without getting lost.
- If they are able to, review their Estate Plan to ensure they will be protected if/when they lose competency.
- Reduce the Risk
While there are no guaranteed strategies to prevent a person with a mental incapacity like dementia from wandering, there are some actions that may help reduce the risk.
- Make opportunities for them to engage in meaningful activities throughout the day.
- If there is a time of day the person is most likely to wander (such as early evening for people who experience “sundowning”), schedule activities at this time that can help them feel both relaxed and engaged in something pleasurable.
- Make sure the person is getting proper nutrition, hydration, and opportunities to go to the toilet throughout the day.
- If the person can no longer drive, be sure to take away access to their car keys in case they forget they cannot drive.
- Avoid busy, disorienting places such as shopping malls.
- Supervise them when they are in new surroundings in case they begin to feel confused, disoriented, or agitated.
- Prepare the Home
If you notice that your loved one’s risk of wandering begins to increase, you may want to consider some of the following home safety measures:
- Place night lights throughout the home.
- Install warning bells or monitoring devices that signal when a door has been opened.
- Put a fence or hedges around the patio or yard.
- Label each door with signs or symbols to explain what each room is for.
- Store away coats, hats, wallets, keys, and other items that may prompt a person’s instinct to leave.
- Use a Locating Device
Many electronic locating devices on the market allow someone with dementia to have a sense of independence while providing you with the peace of mind that they can be found if they wander or get lost. These devices use GPS or radio technology, and many of them can be worn around the wrist like a watch.
- Contact an Elder Law Attorney
Making decisions on behalf of your loved one can feel overwhelming, especially when there is so much information out there. Speaking with an experienced San Jose elder law attorney can help you understand what options you have to keep your loved one safe. The attorney will know what the most relevant resources are for you, your loved one, and your specific situation.
If you have additional questions or need help getting started when you see a loved one becoming incapacitated, our elder law attorneys are here to offer guidance and support. Please feel free to contact us at (800) 244-8814 to schedule a consultation at our San Jose law firm or one of our many other offices located throughout the state of California.