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How to Control Alzheimer's Wandering

Alzheimer's disease causes sufferers to become disoriented, confused and afraid. The disease can erase memories of once-familiar surroundings, and as a result, Alzheimer's patients often wander away from home.  In fact, the Alzheimer's Association estimates that 60% of Alzheimer's patients wander away from home. The stress can weigh heavily on caregivers and family.

It is not possible to completely prevent wandering in people with Alzheimer's and dementia, but caregivers can minimize the risk. Here are some techniques to try:

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Install wandering-prevention locks. Install locks and escape prevention devices on doors, windows and gate. These products require complex maneuvers to open doors, thus making it difficult for Alzheimer's and dementia patients to leave. For example, if your loved one tends to unlock doors, install sliding bolt locks out of your loved one's line of sight.

Install alarms. There are many wandering prevention alarms on the market that can alert you that your loved one is trying to get out. These devices include motion detectors, pressure-sensitive alarm mats at the door, and warning bells on doors. 

Disguise escape routes. Camouflaging doors and windows inhibits the Alzheimer patient's ability to find a way out. Paint doors the same color as walls, or hang curtains on windows that match the color of walls, so they blend in with surroundings, and make them less visible.

Provide a safe place to wander. Provide a safe place in your home or yard for walking or exploration — such as a path through the rooms of your house or a circular trail through a fenced backyard.

Use visual cues. People who have Alzheimer's often forget where they are, even inside their own homes. Visual reminders provide clues and trigger memories. For example, post descriptive photos on the doors to various rooms, such as the bathroom, and kitchen. Even Stop signs at doors have been reported to help.


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