How to Prevent Wandering and Ensure Home Safety for Dementia Patients

Dementia can cause memory loss, confusion, and disorientation, leading to dangerous wandering behaviors. An estimated 60% of people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point, so it’s crucial for caregivers to take steps to prevent elopement and keep their loved ones safe. This article outlines various strategies and products to secure the home environment and protect individuals with dementia.

Secure Exits and Entrances

Start by installing specialized locks and alarms on doors, windows, and gates. Electronic keyless locks allow caregivers to control access while remaining challenging for dementia patients to maneuver. Choose a model with a simple design, large buttons, and no complex sequences required. Sliding bolt locks placed out of sight provide an additional barrier. Mount them up high or down low on door frames. Motion sensors, pressure mats, and door/window monitors can also alert caregivers if a senior attempts to exit. Opt for a home security system with contact sensors on all exterior doors and windows for 24/7 monitoring. Never lock a person inside completely unsupervised, as this poses serious risks in emergencies.

Camouflage and Conceal Exits

Camouflaging exits is an optical trick that can deter wandering. Painting doors and frames the same color as walls blends them into the surroundings. Hanging matching curtains over windows has a similar effect. Placing dark-colored doormats in front of exterior doors may create an illusion of a “hole” in the floor. Some individuals with dementia perceive this as an impassable barrier.

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Provide Safe Spaces for Wandering

If preventing wandering is impossible, provide a safe space for the behavior instead. Convert a yard into a secured outdoor area for pacing or wandering during nice weather. Indoors, repurpose a room by removing hazards and adding monitoring technology. Taking regular supervised walks together can also help curb restlessness while ensuring safety.

Use Visual Cues and Remove Triggers

Look for patterns in behaviors to identify triggers for wandering, like sundowning in the evenings. Remove car keys and house keys from easy access. Post visual reminders like photos on interior doors to help reorient dementia patients. Notify neighbors and enroll in local tracking programs for at-risk wanderers.

Employ Tracking Methods

If your loved one does wander, GPS devices allow police and emergency personnel to quickly locate them. Medical ID jewelry engraved with key details also identifies dementia patients. Always keep an updated photo, physical description, and contact info in their emergency file. Preparation and early precautions are key to reducing unsafe wandering events.

Dementia patients require home adaptations and lifestyle adjustments to remain comfortable and secure. Caregivers should evaluate hazards, utilize monitoring technology, establish routines, and tap into community resources. With proper safeguards in place, the risks of elopement can be minimized. However, wandering cannot be fully prevented in all cases.

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