7 Home Safety Practices for Wandering Seniors
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 60% of individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia will wander. Almost half of wandering seniors will suffer serious injuries or death if not found within 24 hours.
An Alzheimer’s home safety checklist is crucial in ensuring a senior is safe at home despite his/her condition. Wandering is a common symptom for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and there are many different reasons that older adults wander. Some individuals can become confused and disoriented, getting lost in their own home. Many cases of wandering seniors involve the person wanting to “go home” even if they are home, or trying to fulfill old routines such as going to work. Other cases are caused by anxiety and restlessness, especially at night.
Taking care of wandering seniors can be very overwhelming for caregivers and family members, as it causes great anxiety and stress over safety. It can also be difficult to completely prevent seniors from wandering without stripping them of their freedom and independence. There are many ways to encourage a safe environment for wandering seniors in their home. Below we’ve listed 7 home safety practices for wandering seniors.
7 Home Safety Practices for Wandering Seniors
1. Place locks out of the line of sight
Using deadbolts and placing them out of the line-of-sight can keep seniors who wander inside the house. These can be placed higher or lower on the doors in a place that could be hard to reach for the individual.
2. Use an alarm system
An alarm system can be beneficial for a caregiver living with the senior or families that are nearby. If wandering seniors would happen to get an exterior door or window open, family or others living in the house would be notified. The older adult might still walk outside, but the instant notification will likely help other people find him/her quickly before he or she travels too far.
3. Inform the neighbors and get contact information
Get to know the senior’s neighbors and inform them of the possibility of the senior wandering. This way, if he/she is seen walking outside, it’s probable that a neighbor will notice and take action. Many times neighbors are the ones who return wandering seniors back home before they get too far. Gathering contact information is also important in the event that the senior wanders and neighbors should be informed and on the look-out.
4. Keep keys locked away
Wandering seniors not only get away on foot, but they can also drive away. If there is someone in the house that owns a vehicle, be sure that the keys are locked up and out of reach. If a senior that is wandering decides to drive away, it will be harder to locate them and bring them home. Not to mention that driving could lead to accidents where the senior or others could be seriously injured. If there are bicycles or other transportation means in the house, make sure that they are also locked in a room that the senior does not have access to.
5. Put up a fence
A fence can be an investment, but it’s also a way to give wandering seniors a bit more freedom. If they enjoy being outside, this can be a cause for wandering. A fence with locked gates will give older adults that wander the chance to enjoy some fresh air without caregivers worrying about losing them. The senior will also likely appreciate the level of freedom this gives them instead of being locked inside the house all day.
6. Use signs
Sometimes, placing signs throughout the house can be all that is needed to prevent the elderly from wandering. Distinguishing the bathroom from external doors can avoid confusion and get them to the right place. Also, signs that simply say, “stop” or “do not enter” can be enough to keep them inside. This might not work for everyone and might need to be adjusted if his or her condition worsens, but it could be a good starting point for you and your loved one.
7. Invest in technology
This might not be a home safety feature to prevent seniors from wandering, but it’s still important to address. GPS tracking devices can be worn in jewelry or even put in the soles of shoes. Some medical devices also offer models with tracking in the case that a senior wanders. It could also be beneficial just to have a small, cheap, cellphone that fits in the individual’s pocket. If he or she is found wandering and is confused, the person who finds him/her can use the cell phone to call for help.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America created Silver Alert Programs in which senior citizens and other individuals with cognitive disorders can be registered. At least 41 states have implemented the programs, and others are pending. By registering a senior citizen in a Silver Alert program, caregivers are able to report the individual as missing and an alert will be generated to help locate this person.