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Seniors and Wandering

Senior Alert

Be very careful of giving sedating medications or over-the-counter sleeping aids to someone who has dementia. Sometimes the drugs may have the opposite effect on a brain-injured person. Always check with the doctor before giving over-the-counter sleeping aids.

One of the greatest fears and challenges faced by many families is their parent's need to wander. Wandering is a frequent behavior among people with dementia. In fact, it is so common that many nursing homes have developed "wandering tracks" in their facilities, so that their wandering residents can safely wander when they feel the need. Now, chances are you don't have a wandering track at home, and if Mom does leave the house unattended, she poses safety risks for herself and others. Here are some tips to help you cope with her wandering:

  • Get an ID bracelet with her name, your phone number, and "memory impaired" engraved on it. You can also purchase these through MedicAlert. You can visit their Web site at www.medicalert.com, or call 1-800-432-5378.
  • Give your mom a card with your phone number on it, so she can call you if she is lost.
  • Alert the local police and give them a photo of her, or contact any local store she would likely go to if she found a way out of your home.
  • Install alarms that will set off if she's leaving the house, or use childproof devices to prevent her from opening an outside door.
  • While you are with her, constantly reassure her where she is and that everything is fine.
  • Find ways to get her to exercise or take her for walks. There are even exercises she can do while sitting in a chair.
  • Give your mom simple tasks to do during the day. If she loves folding clothes, bring out the towels every day to give her something to do.
  • Reduce water intake several hours before bedtime, so she won't need to get up to urinate in the middle of the night risking a fall or inducing wandering.
  • Get her involved in adult day care to keep her active during the day and more likely to sleep at night and reduce the need to wander.
  • Don't lock Mom in a room or tie her in bed thinking that you're trying to keep her from hurting herself--she will, anyway. Besides, restraining her in this fashion is psychologically abusive.
  • Observe what she does before she begins to wander, and see if you can identify a pattern. Look for the cause and make the changes accordingly.

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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