Wandering Monitors for Early Alzheimer's or Dementia
Safety and well-being are the most important things
By Marion Somers, PhD
When your mom, dad or other elder is diagnosed with early Alzheimer's or dementia, the most important thing to do is to keep him or her safe and make sure his or her needs are met. They may not be fully aware of their surroundings or may not be fully capable of making good or safe choices for themselves. They are often dependent on you, the caregiver, for their safety and well-being. A common concern is how to keep your elder from wandering off, especially when you are unable to be around them all of the time.
I recommend that you contact your state Department of Aging or Alzheimer's Association in your local community to find out if there is a support group for your problems and concerns. You might be surprised that by talking with others who have similar issues, you can come up with creative solutions that address your particular situation. Also, find out if there is an appropriate day care program for Alzheimer's or dementia clients in your area so that your senior has a safe and protected environment to go to during the day. This will greatly increase your peace of mind while you tend to your own work, family, and travel needs. As an added bonus, many of these day care programs also have transportation services to and from the center and may be available to lighten your transportation load.
As for monitoring devices, short of locking your senior in his or her home (which is 100% unacceptable), I have yet to see any device that fully prevents an elder from wandering off. There are “lifeline” devices that can be hung around a person's neck, but I've learned that you cannot rely on something that needs to be manually activated by someone with dementia. There are safety identification bracelets that can be worn so that if your senior does wander off, he or she will at least have contact information readily available. There are also video and computer-monitoring devices that can be viewed from a remote location, but these systems have limitations. Your elder can figure out how to turn them off, the electricity can be turned off or a blackout might occur, or your elder could walk into an area that is not being monitored by the surveillance cameras.
The best-case scenario for a person with dementia is to have someone with them at all times since they could easily hurt themselves or inadvertently hurt someone else. If it is financially viable, I strongly recommend that you consider hiring an aide or a nurse, and be sure they are a compassionate individual who possesses the necessary training and experience.
A version of this blog appeared on Dr. Marion's Web Site.
Published October 10, 2012