Wandering around the house by a person with Alzheimer's may be irritating to the caregiver, but not necessarily unsafe. In this case, you as caregiver, may need to adjust your anxiety level about wandering.
Two characteristic precursors to wandering are restlessness and disorientation. Redirecting a person's behaviours, distracting, orienting, and encouraging physical exercise serve to reduce wandering.
Some suggestions are:
Remove clutter and clear the pathways from room to room to allow the person with Alzheimer's disease to move about freely and safely.
Make sure floors provide good traction for walking or pacing. Use nonskid floor wax or leave floors unpolished. Secure all rug edges, eliminate throw rugs, or install nonskid strips. The person with Alzheimer's disease should wear nonskid shoes or sneakers.
Place locks on exit doors high or low on the door out of direct sight. Consider double locks that require a key. Keep a key for yourself and hide one near the door for emergency exit purposes.
Use loosely fitting doorknob covers so that the cover turns instead of the actual knob. Due to the potential hazard they could cause if an emergency exit is needed, locked doors and doorknob covers should be used only when a caregiver is present.
Install safety devices found in hardware stores to limit the distance that windows can be opened.
If possible, secure the yard with fencing and a locked gate. Use door alarms such as loose bells above the door or devices that ring when the doorknob is touched or the door is opened.
Divert the attention of the person with Alzheimer's disease away from using the door by placing small scenic posters on the door; placing removable gates, curtains, or brightly coloured streamers across the door; or wallpapering the door to match any adjoining walls.
Place STOP, DO NOT ENTER, or CLOSED signs in strategic areas on doors.
Reduce clues that symbolize departure such as shoes, keys, suitcases, coats, or hats.
Obtain a medical identification bracelet for the person with Alzheimer's disease with the words "memory loss" inscribed along with an emergency telephone number. Place the bracelet on the person's dominant hand to limit the possibility of removal, or solder the bracelet closed.
Place labels in garments to aid in identification.
Keep an article of the person's worn, unwashed clothing in a plastic bag to aid in finding someone with the use of dogs.
Notify neighbours of the person's potential to wander or become lost. Alert them to contact you or the police immediately if the individual is seen alone and on the move.
Give local police, neighbours, and relatives a recent picture, along with the name and pertinent information about the person with Alzheimer's disease, as a precaution should he or she become lost. Keep extra pictures on hand.
Consider making an up-to-date home video of the person with Alzheimer's disease. Do not leave a person with Alzheimer's disease who has a history of wandering unattended.