The Perils of Senior Wandering

Those of us who care for elderly loved ones have few fears greater than wandering. News stories like this one pop up, and a chill goes up to our spines. Thankfully, that Alzheimer’s patent was found by the police and returned home safe and sound. But we all know that stories like that end in tragedy more often than we’d all like. 

There are a number of steps you can take to help protect your loved ones. A door alarm, paired with a basic chain or slide lock can help you intercept a loved one before they leave home. Have cards printed up with your address and cell phone number, and make sure your loved one keeps several of these cards in their wallet or purse. A medical bracelet with that contact info may also be a good idea. Finally, identify the places your loved one is most likely to go if they leave home – a cafe, a supermarket, a mall – and ask the management if you could leave a flyer with their picture and your contact info on it. If they do show up, you can be called rather than the police.

Ultimately, this will involve some very difficult conversations between the caregiver and the care recipient. Seniors, like most adults, hate to be treated like children. When the time comes to have this conversation, avoid any words which infantilize or belittle them. No senior wants to wander off, but at the same time, they often resist measures that would prevent it. Reinforce that you are looking out for their best interests, in the most unobtrusive way possible. It will not be an easy conversation, but it is a necessary one for many families.