6 Signs an Impaired Senior Is Likely to Wander

Pacing, Repetitive Movements and Difficulty Locating Familiar Rooms Are Warning Signals, says Steve Barlam of LivHOME
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It’s become commonplace to hear about seniors with cognitive impairment wandering from home. Often they are found by police or concerned neighbors.

One of the best ways to prevent this is to recognize when a senior might wander. Steve Barlam, LivHOME’s chief professional officer, offers a number of signs family members and caregivers can be aware of. Seniors prone to wandering often:

  •   *Experience restlessness and pacing.
  •   *Engage in repetitive movements.
  •   *Have trouble locating familiar rooms at home.
  •   *Return later than usual from regular excursions such as walks.
  •   *Attempt to go to work, even long after retirement.
  •   *Ask the whereabouts of friends or family.
  •   *Appear to be involved in a hobby or chore but get nothing done.

 

“Wandering can be triggered by fear, delusions, unfamiliar surroundings, or simple confusion. And it’s dangerous: A person with Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments may not remember his or her name or address and can become lost even in familiar places. However, there are strategies that help prevent it,” Barlam says in Episode 36 of The Senior Care Podcast by LivHOME.

Barlam suggests first looking at issues like the structure of the senior’s day, tracking the times of day when restlessness and discomfort occur. He also recommends ensuring that the senior is comfortable and that all of his or her needs, such as eating and using the bathroom, are met.

The human factor—the watchful eyes of caregivers and family members—is extremely important as well. In addition, technology like LivHOME Care Monitor™ can come into play to prevent wandering by triggering alerts when doors and windows are opened, and there are GPS tracking devices that can clip onto a senior’s watch or belt.

Environmental approaches, too, can be effective: “Seniors can perceive a flat, black spot as a hole, so placing a black carpet circle on the floor in front of a door, for example, can deter a senior from approaching the door. Murals can also be used to disguise doors as other household objects such as bookshelves so that seniors approaching them won’t recognize them or try to exit,” Barlam explains.

He adds that when searching for seniors who have wandered off, it’s helpful to know that they’ll most likely do so in the direction of their dominant hand. So if they are left-handed, they will wander to the left. Seniors who wander will also seek out places of comfort, such as their places of worship, the homes of family and friends, and former workplaces.

The podcast episode, titled “Wandering Prevention,” can be found on The Senior Care Podcast by LivHOME homepage (www.livhome.com/podcast.) Listeners can subscribe via RSS feed, email or through the iTunes store. The episode has a run time of 17 minutes and 54 seconds.