Wandering Big Risk for those with Dementia

September 21 is World Alzheimer's Day. Alzheimer’s disease can affect people in many different ways, like causing some to wander. An occupational therapist explains the risks.

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CLEVELAND – September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.

Alzheimer’s disease can affect people in many different ways, like causing some to wander. Six in ten people living with dementia will wander at least once, with many doing so repeatedly.

“I think that oftentimes family members or friends don’t bring it up in the medical visit because there are so many other things that they are bringing up. So I think that it’s underreported from the family perspective,” said Shaina Meyer, OTR/L, MSCS, occupational therapist for Cleveland Clinic. “I also think that maybe as healthcare professionals we could do a better job of asking if certain behaviors are occurring that could indicate wandering.”

Meyer said wandering comes in different forms, including elopement, which means attempting to escape, repetitive pacing and becoming lost.

It most cases it can be harmless, but it can lead to more dangerous situations and even result in injury or death.

For example, if an individual were get outside in cold weather, they could get hypothermia, frostbite or suffer from dehydration.

Meyer said there are many things a caretaker or family members can do to help keep their loved one with dementia safe.

They could add new locks on the door, install an alarm system or a buy a GPS tracker.

“That way if someone were to elope from the home or the environment that they live in they can be tracked and returned safely,” she said.

Meyer adds that it’s also important to know the person’s usual behavior and telltale signs that they might be getting ready to wander.

And of course, make sure to express any concerns with their medical provider. There are plenty of resources available.

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