How To Deal With Your Parent With Alzheimer's Wandering

If your elderly parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, there is a good chance that they may wander off in the future. According to the Alzheimer's Association, six out of ten people who have dementia in association with their Alzheimer's will wander off. Unfortunately, the situation is as frightening as losing a child. Your parent with dementia may not know their name, address or who authorities can contact to help them. If your parents has been diagnosed with dementia, it's important to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. 

Preparation Tips

In the event that your parent does wander off, you may need to call police and others for help in locating them. If so, you should:

  • Keep a current, clear photograph of your elderly parent on your phone or in your home where it can be easily retrieved in an emergency. 
  • Speak with your neighbors or your parent's neighbors and ask them if they will call you if they spot them wandering by themselves. 
  • Provide your parent with identification jewelry and/or a GPS tracking device. 
  • Know the license plate of your parent's vehicle as well as the year, make and model in case your parent decides to drive away. 
  • Sign your senior up for the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return program. For a fee, you will get identification cards and jewelry for your senior as well as labels that you can place on their clothing. These labels list a toll-free number that authorities can call if they should find your senior wandering on their own. 

Senior Alert

If you can't find your parent after searching the surrounding area for 15 minutes, experts recommend that you contact the police immediately. If your state uses a Silver Alert public notification program, the police can set that in motion so that the general public can be on the lookout for your missing parent. Time is of the utmost importance when it comes to wandering parents who have dementia. There is, unfortunately, a 46 percent mortality rate for elderly people with dementia if they are not discovered within the first 24 hours. Like a small child, a patient with Alzheimer's may wander into a pond, get lost in the woods in freezing temperatures or venture into traffic. 

Consider Placing Your Senior in a Nursing Home

As hard as you may try, you may not be able to always keep track of your parent if they begin wandering on a frequent basis. In that case, your best option may be to place them in a nursing home that is experienced in Alzheimers care. If you decide to place your parent in such a facility, look for one that can:

  • Provide your parent with recreational programs and events to keep them stimulated.
  • Help them take their medication on time. 

Many of these facilities do have waiting lists, according to WebMD, so if you believe your parent is going to need to be admitted in the near future, it is a good idea to visit them sooner rather than later. 

Staying at Home

If your parent is living with you, and you hope to keep them in your home as long as possible, take the time to dementia-proof your home by:

  • Placing doorknob covers -- such as the ones you would use to baby-proof your home -- on all of your doors leading to the exterior. 
  • Adding monitors to your home that will alert you when someone leaves the house.

As your parent's dementia worsens, it will be important to follow these tips and to stay on top of their physical location at all times.