Dementia and Wandering Part One: The Burden
Last night I had an “emergency” Skype session I’d like to share with you.
What started out as a lovely outing at the mall had turned into three gut-wrenching, heart-pumping, nerve-wracking hours. My cleint lost her brother in the mall!
As she was telling me about the security search and rescue and how her brother was finally located, she left out
one important detail--how it happened.
Listening to her story, I knew how it happened. She went to the bathroom.
Asking her confirmed it. “I told him to wait” she cried, “Why didn’t he wait?”
“He’s never done this before,” she went on to say....
That’s what I had heard from two other clients earlier today. Maybe it’s the full moon, or a Forest Gump moment. The statistics show that more than 125,000 people with dementia wander away every year.
Before you jump to any conclusions about this caregiver, just let me just say at some point of caring for a person with dementia this will happen to you.
I have had clients wander from home, church, parties, the mall, airports, picnics, weddings and funerals. My mother was a serial wanderer. I never reported her missing because up until recently you had to wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if a person can’t walk they can’t wander. I had a client who wandered from home in a wheelchair and was picked up on the highway entrance ramp.
Why people wander is a mystery. Finding them alive and unharmed is a gift.
Here are my Dementia Zone tips to keep your loved ones safe:
1. Wandering and dementia go hand in hand
The brain changes and the person becomes confused.
2. 60% of people with dementia will wander
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it won’t happen to you. The 60% are first time wanders and many become repeat offenders.
3. One minute they are fine, the next minute they are gone
A person with dementia will not dress for the elements nor do they care about the weather conditions. They will not recognize unsafe areas such as the woods, neighborhoods or highways.
4. A person who has wandered is scared and confused
Many times, especially outdoors they will hunker down and hide. They may not respond to their given name. Instead of Robert try calling for Bob or Bobby.
5. Wandering poses serious threats
According to the Alzheimer’s Association about 50% of people who wander will suffer serious injury or death if they are not found in 24 hours.
We are all wanders to various degrees. Next time I’ll show you how to keep your free spirited loved one with dementia safer.
Every month, we're giving away a free copy of "Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver's Complete Survival Guide" to a new member of our community. Enter to win a copy by entering your email in the "Subscribe" form on this page.