My Dad left the house at 5 am thinking he had to be somewhere. Then rang the doorbell to get back in. We didn’t know he had left his bed, let alone the house.

When my husband started wandering, I had an alarm company put sensors on all the outside doors. I would set the alarm at night. If he set it off, it would startle him and of course, wake me up. During the day, even when the alarm was off, it would bing when opened and say, " Front door open" or whatever other door was opened. However, with dementia, each week brings a new problem to solve, and you begin to feel like the little boy putting fingers in the leaking dike. Sooner or later, you run out of fingers. Memory care becomes one of the only options. I'm praying that God will comfort you and give you wisdom. It's a hard path to walk.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to WearyJean

We put a latch on the top of the door for my dad BUT nothing is 100% fail proof so plan for the inevitable. My dad always carried his wallet, even after no longer driving. We made sure contact info was in his wallet. We also found small metal plates that we had engraved with contact info and weave into shoelaces. My dad did happen to get out of an unlatched door door one day and wandered 15 blocks away. My mom noticed he was gone and panicked, called me and the police and a hunt ensued. A wonderful man found him, by the lake!!!, and saw the info on his shoelace plates on his shoes and brought him home. That day we admitted him to memory care.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to campbec

If an elderly person is wandering they cannot live on their own anymore regardless of how well their home has been elder-proofed (same as baby-proofed only for old people).

The options are:

1) Move the elder into a locked memory care facility.

2) Bring in 24-hour caregiving services into the elder's home. Or move the elder in with family. In either scenario whatever home the wandering elder is moved to every door and window has to be fitted with locks that do not open without a key. Or the elder's bedroom door has to be locked from the outside. Outside grates over the bedroom windows too if needs be.
I had an elderly client years ago who was a wanderer. She was super fit physically, but her mind was shot from dementia. She lived with her daughter who used to lock her bedroom door from the outside at night. The woman crawled out the window. I asked the daughter why she didn't put her mother's bedroom on the second floor, and it was because she would regularly crawl out of the window at night. Then some neighbor going to work or putting their kids on the bus in the morning would find her and bring her back. Or she'd knock on someone's door and say she was locked out of her house. I remember telling her that her mother getting out and potentially getting hurt wasn't the only terrible thing that could happen. There was a first-story window left open in at night that a 80-year-old could get out of. Who or what can get in? The daughter also had a husband and three kids living there. Her answer was she wasn't worried for the family because they had security cameras and the husband had a gun. She was unaware that criminals also have them and a fat lot of good a security camera does when everyone is sound asleep.
One morning I was heading to their house and I found her walking up the sidewalk in nothing but a soiled Depend and a t-shirt. I called her daughter to come and pick her up because I would not put her in my car. I was able tptalk them into getting metal security grates put over the first-floor windows in her mother's bedroom. They only agreed because I told them that I'm obligated to report the incident to the police and APS but that I wouldn't if they got it done. They had child safety locks put that day and then the grates. Sure the mother was angry because she was literally locked down at night like jail.
It was that or go to memory care. Those are about the only two choices.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to BurntCaregiver

my mom's memory care has a lock at the top of the door out of residents' reach, seems to work well.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to cignal
Doug4321 Nov 4, 2022
Yes, this is what we did with my MIL, who wandered. was put on the front door.

She was an enfeebled old women who couldn't reach it. But it might also confound an elderly male with dementia, because it is hard to open even if you do know how to open it, especially if it is out of easy reach.

Another possibility is a deadbolt lock that locks from the inside. You could tell your parent that you are afraid of crime and are upgrading your security.
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You should not lock someone into a room even if someone is in the house in another room. A dementia patient could set the room on fire and not be able to get out. Actually that goes for anyone. It’s illegal everywhere I know of. It’s restraint, elder abuse, false imprisonment or whatever. You can lock someone in the room with the patient if they know how to get both of them out. Generally at this point it’s time for memory care.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Fawnby
BurntCaregiver Nov 5, 2022

How about making sure the person who is out of it enough with dementia that they need to be locked in doesn't have any access to matches or lighters. I'd say even check them for for a pieces of flint also just to be safe. Pat them down for drugs and weapons too before locking the door.
Let's be honest here about dignity issues. Many people find the locking in to be one. When the elder's dementia has progressed to where they have to either be watched 24 hours a day like a toddler or locked in, they really have no dignity. At this point the goal is really keeping them safe and being kind to them.
I've worked for many seniors who had a good life with their family at home. They were locked in their room at night when it was bedtime. No one slept in there with them. Most people aren't millionaires so it's absolutely ridiculous to pay a babysitter to sit there all night so they don't wander off. A family can buy a $20 baby monitor at Target and $10 lock at any hardware store and install it on the outside of the door. Problem solved in many instances.
I can't see how it's better for an elderly person or their family they live with to put them in memory care if everyone is happy having them and they're being cared for by family.
I've taken more than a few people to the store to buy door locks for grandma/grandpa's bedroom and even installed a few myself.
Locking a person in a room maybe illegal. Its a fire hazard. My cousin had inside key bolts. Someone was with my Uncle 24/7. When he passed, my cousin had them removed because they were considered a fire hazard.

The door in my Moms area was a round knob. I bought child protective covers. For Mom, they just went round and round. For me, I knew the trick needed to open them.
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Reply to JoAnn29

DMadina, if your Dad only leaves the house when it is dark, I read that putting a black throw rug in front of the exit doors, Dad will think there is a hole in the floor.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to freqflyer
Fawnby Nov 4, 2022
You wouldn’t know if they only leave the house in the dark because they can change any time and start leaving in the daytime. You can’t trust what they’ll do ever.,
Installing a wireless security camera has been a wonderful solution for me. I started with just one in my father’s bedroom but have since added several to other areas of the house. You can set them to alert your smart phone when there is movement plus you can deactivate the alert function during the daytime when it is not needed. I cannot speak for all brands, but I have been happy with Wyze. The cost per camera is reasonable (I believe $34.99 USD), and there is no monthly fee if you just want the basic view/alert functions.

I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this consideration, but I have found a few other things have helped my father’s wandering. Essentially, those two things are regulating his sleep and adjusting his medications. The dr had to adjust his medications several times to get the combinations correct so that he sleeps most all of the night. When I took over his care upon my mother’s passing (we have no other family and I, by the grace of God, became eligible to retire early six weeks later), I found that he was allowed to sleep a great deal during the day so he was not sleepy at night. Later during his care, I found that some sitters were allowing him to take long naps during the day (I have him about 130 of the 168 hours each week because I recognized early on that I would not be able mentally or physically to care for him 24-7 for very long). After I explained to the sitters what it does to him when he cannot sleep at night, they got better and his nighttime wandering almost stopped.

I hope this information is helpful, because I know what it is like to have to deal with wandering.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to MC1965
GAinPA Nov 10, 2022
Excellent advice. Basic adjusting of daily napping habits is critical.
My husband has mild dementia and is in a wheelchair; however, this does not stop him from trying to get out of bed at night to use the bathroom (or explore the downstairs). I purchased a baby monitor from Amazon with 2 receivers.  I placed the base in his bedroom (downstairs) and leave it on all the time. I put one upstairs in the spare bedroom where I sleep and the other one in the family room.  I can hear him wherever I am in the house. This has been a lifesaver for me as he doesn’t remember he needs assistance to use the bathroom. Yes, it wakes me up at night, some nights he tries to get up and use the BR 3-4 times. I finally hired a caregiver that spends 2-3 nights per week, when she is here, I turn my monitor off and get some sleep. In the beginning it was difficult to stay in bed and let her “care” for him, but I’m wiser now and know I need those nights to “catch-up” on my own sleep. I also bought an inexpensive home security system with sensors for the outside doors (you can also purchase extras for the windows if that is an issue), a camera which I placed in his bedroom, and a motion detector which will let me know if he leaves the bedroom during the night. Truthfully so far, I haven’t used the motion detector, the baby monitor alerts me to any movement in his room. There are many good ideas on this forum, hopefully one will work for you.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to costigcm

I've never taken care of someone with dementia at home, but I'm facing the necessity soon. Everyone says "restraints" are illegal, but who is really going door-to-door in the neighborhood to see if you've restrained your elderly parent tonight? Don't people actually use some types of restraints in real life? I've seen seat-belt chairs online, where you lock the seat-belt in place and the person can't get up. Wouldn't a seat-belt chair be a good way for the caregiver to take a shower, cook a meal? Why can't you just lock dad in his bedroom at night, especially if there is a bathroom adjoining his bedroom or just a portable toilet? If you're going to fit the entire house with cameras, motion sensors, and locks on every door, why not go the extra step and have restraints?
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Beekee
BurntCaregiver Nov 10, 2022

I was an in-home caregiver for almost 25 years. Let me tell you from my long experience that there is nothing wrong with putting a lock on the outside of a bedroom door if you've got a dementia wanderer.
Back in the day when I was first starting out we used to use a posie vest with a wheelchair. This secured the person in the chair so they couldn't get up or slide out of the chair and fall on the floor. It's not the same thing as a straight jacket, but everyone today is all about the "zero tolerance" nonsense which really only means zero having to think and have some common sense.
Side rails up on a hospital bed aren't a bad thing either. It sure beats some elder falling out of bed onto the floor. A nursing home will put a mat on the floor next to a bed for a person who's a fall risk. Of course their risk of getting injured is far higher than if the bed rails were raised up, but they're not allowed to.
Put a lock on the outside of your father's bedroom door. Put a child bar over the screen of the window so there won't be any crawling out that way.
This whole thing now with cameras and senors to preserve dignity is nonsense. When an elder is at the point where they are out of it with dementia and wandering around disoriented at night they're past the point of preserving their dignity. What's important then is that they're safe and treated with kindness.
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