Help for Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Wanderers

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I recently came across this story in a newsletter I receive and thought it was worth sharing. Rick L. Law, Elder Law Attorney wrote:

“Recently I was sitting down with some very good friends when a cell phone rang. A look of worry shot across my friend’s brow as he looked at me and apologized, ‘I’ve got to take this call… my dad’s missing. He’s gone wandering…’ I could not help but listen as he spoke to relatives several hundred miles away. He murmured hopefully, ‘Maybe they’ll bring Dad to the shelter.’

“After saying goodbye he looked at me with pain across his face and said, ‘Nobody knows where he is. He’s got Alzheimer’s and my mom can’t keep him in the house anymore.’ About 30 minutes later he got the call that Dad had been found and everything was okay this time. As I sat there, I wondered if my friend knew of some of the resources available to help keep track of vulnerable or wandering loved ones and it occurred to me that our readers may also be unaware of some of these resources.”

One of the reasons that having a wandering relative afflicted with dementia is so frightening is that they don’t act (or react) in the same way that a typical lost person would. Typically, wanderers with dementia will not cry out for help or respond to your calls to them, nor will they leave many physical clues to lead you to them. What a wanderer is likely to do is go to an old place of residence or a favorite location.

There are resources out there to help with wandering relatives so you can do more than just wait nervously by the phone. One of these resources is the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® program detailed on the Alzheimer’s Association website. This program provides 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. If an individual with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia wanders and becomes lost, caregivers can call the emergency response line (1-800-625-3780) to report it. A community support network will be activated, including local Association chapters and law enforcement agencies, to help reunite the family member or caregiver with the person who wandered.

If a citizen or emergency personnel finds the member, they can call the toll-free number listed on the member’s ID jewelry. MedicAlert + Safe Return will notify the member’s listed contacts, making sure the person is returned home.

If you want to try to stop wandering at its source, the Mayo Clinic has a page detailing some of the reasons why elderly relatives may wander, and includes some suggestions on how you might prevent it. But remember no matter how much you do, your loved one may still wander. Don’t blame yourself when it happens.

The best thing to do is be prepared for the occasions when the wandering does happen. Use the resources available, and keep other relatives and caregivers informed.

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One Response to “Help for Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Wanderers”

  1. Estaminais Says:

    Fortunately there is research going on (like stem cells) that may one day serve the cure this disease.

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