One of the most frightening aspects of my dad’s dementia was his tendency to wander. It is unfortunately a common symptom of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It can place people in life-threatening situations. In fact, a gentleman with Alzheimer’s in the same town where my parents retired wandered away from his home one winter and died from exposure. He’d fallen into a ditch and had gotten tangled in some weeds and brush.
Fortunately, my father’s wandering never led to physical danger, but it did scare my mom and I. On a few occasions, my mother had to call the police, who were wonderful about tracking my father down, but it was nerve-wracking until he was home. It also became impossible for my mother to take my dad on any errands, because she couldn’t trust him to wait for her. One time he wandered away while she was in the dentist’s chair, and ended up at a fast food restaurant a few doors down, which he claimed was full of spiders. Another time, he wandered away from McDonald’s while my mother was in the restroom. The police found him near the drive-thru.
When I was contacted on Twitter about A Caregiver’s Guide to Wandering, I was interested in learning more. The guide was inspired by Sergeant Jacqueline Fortune of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, Texas, who’s department was using Boerner, Inc.’s McGruff Safe Kids ID Kit to address wandering calls in the area they serve. The company decided to create a guide to help caregivers cope with the specific wandering issues associated with dementia.
The 12-page guide offers innovative, concrete tips on preventing wandering as well as developing an action plan to implement when a wandering incident occurs. The guide is designed to be used by agencies — it is in use in the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, California and in agencies in thirteen other states, including several Area Agencies on Aging.
I believe this guide could be useful to every dementia caregiver. If you know of an organization that works with the aging in your community, recommend A Caregiver’s Guide to Wandering as a resource for dementia caregivers.
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the guide for this review.