Elopement, or wandering away alone and without notice, is a common occurrence in individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, Down syndrome, and other conditions which affect cognition. Each year, thousands of missing persons cases are reported due to wandering, and often severe injury or deaths occur.
If you’re caring for a loved one with some form of cognitive disorder, you probably live each day in fear of losing sight of him or her. Of course, you can’t be everywhere all of the time, and mistakes do happen. Follow these tips to keep your loved one safer.
Secure the home. You can’t stay home all of the time, of course, but you can work to create an anxiety-free safe zone. Install locks on all windows and doors (up high or in less noticeable spots is ideal). Consider a motion detector or alarms that will alert you if an outer door is opened. Fence your yard, so that your loved one can enjoy the outdoors safely.
Install direction signs. Often a simple reminder will help your loved one remember the rules. Install direction signs, such as Stop or do not enter around your home, so that he or she knows which doors are okay to open… and which ones are not. Those with dementia might also benefit from direction signs, so that they can find the bathroom and other locations without confusion.
Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself, explain your loved one’s condition, and ask your neighbors to please alert you if they ever spot anything suspicious. People often won’t get involved unless they have been asked to do so.
Go for a walk. It might sound counter-intuitive to venture outdoors when you’re worried about losing track of your loved one, but getting outside could have the opposite effect. Sometimes affected individuals wander because they’re bored and restless. Daily activity could curb this impulse.
Anticipate wandering. Most people with a cognitive disorder will wander at some point. Look for cues that could alert you to impending elopement, such as restless pacing, nervousness, confusion, or a spoken desire to go somewhere.
Use a GPS tracking service. A good GPS tracking service will not only pinpoint your loved one’s location; it will actually alert you the moment he or she breaches an invisible boundary that you establish. An alert on your cell phone will notify you the moment your loved one leaves the perimeter you establish, preventing him or her from wandering too far.
For more information on this service, call one of your representatives who will be happy to explain this life-saving technology.