A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s

By National Institute on Aging

Wandering and Alzheimer’s

Keeping the person safe is one of the most important aspects of caregiving. Some people with AD have a tendency to wander away from their home or their caregiver. Knowing what to do to limit wandering can protect a person from becoming lost. 

  • Make sure that the person carries some kind of identification or wears a medical bracelet. Consider enrolling the person in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program if the program is available in your area (see “For More Information” to contact the Association). If he or she gets lost and is unable to communicate adequately, identification will alert others to the person’s medical condition. Notify neighbors and local authorities in advance that the person has a tendency to wander.
  • Keep a recent photograph or videotape of the person with AD to assist police if the person becomes lost.
  • Keep doors locked. Consider a keyed deadbolt or an additional lock up high or down low on the door. If the person can open a lock because it is familiar, a new latch or lock may help.
  • Be sure to secure or put away anything that could cause danger, both inside and outside the house.

Home Safety and Alzheimer’s

Caregivers of people with AD often have to look at their homes through new eyes to identify and correct safety risks. Creating a safe environment can prevent many stressful and dangerous situations.

  • Install secure locks on all outside windows and doors, especially if the person is prone to wandering. Remove the locks on bathroom doors to prevent the person from accidentally locking himself or herself in.
  • Use childproof latches on kitchen cabinets and any place where cleaning supplies or other chemicals are kept.
  • Label medications and keep them locked up. Also make sure knives, lighters and matches, and guns are secured and out of reach.
  • Keep the house free from clutter. Remove scatter rugs and anything else that might contribute to a fall. Make sure lighting is good both inside and out.
  • Consider installing an automatic shut-off switch on the stove to prevent burns or fire.

Driving and Alzheimer’s

Making the decision that a person with AD is no longer safe to drive is difficult, and it needs to be communicated carefully and sensitively. Even though the person may be upset by the loss of independence, safety must be the priority. 

  • Look for clues that safe driving is no longer possible, including getting lost in familiar places, driving too fast or too slow, disregarding traffic signs, or getting angry or confused.
  • Be sensitive to the person’s feelings about losing the ability to drive, but be firm in your request that he or she no longer do so. Be consistent–don’t allow the person to drive on “good days” but forbid it on “bad days.”
  • Ask the doctor to help. The person may view the doctor as an “authority” and be willing to stop driving. The doctor also can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and request that the person be reevaluated.
  • If necessary, take the car keys. If just having keys is important to the person, substitute a different set of keys.
  • If all else fails, disable the car or move it to a location where the person cannot see it or gain access to it.

 

APA Reference
on Aging, N. (2006). A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/a-caregivers-guide-to-alzheimers/000197
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.