It is inconceivable to imagine the heartbreak of a loved one gone missing, but without taking Alzheimer’s safety precautions in the home, this is all too often what happens. Most of us are aware of Amber Alert, the child abduction alert bulletin used throughout the US. Enacted after the 1996 abduction and murder of 9 year old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas, the system was devised to solicit help from the public in quickly finding a missing child. Less media attention has been given to the Silver Alert system, created for the quick recovery of missing adults, usually those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Six in 10 people with dementia will leave their home during the course of their disease, often referred to as wandering, unable to return safely on their own. A frightening statistic shows that unless that person is found within 24 hours, half will suffer serious injury or even death. The Silver Alert system, as with Amber Alert, notifies the public via television, radio and roadside electronic billboards. But there are many Alzheimer’s safety steps you can take to prevent wandering to begin with. Spring Hills Home Care Services, a division of Spring Hills Senior Communities, offers these Alzheimer’s safety awareness suggestions for caregivers of the elderly with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and being cared for at home:
- Hire home caregivers, if possible. There is no better peace of mind than knowing that your loved one is being cared for during the hours you may be unable to provide on-site personalized care.
- Enroll seniors in adult day care for the hours family members will not be home.
- Create a schedule for family members to take turns calling to check in on your loved one throughout the day. Checking in not only gives you peace of mind, it may prevent wandering by re-focusing the senior on the need to stay in the home.
- Ask relevant questions when checking in to determine the level of confusion/clarity for each day. Questions to ask include: Have you had breakfast? Have you showered? Are you watching TV? Are you going to take a nap? Did you eat lunch? Who else have you talked to on the phone today? If confusion level is high, that is an indication that your loved one should not be alone.
- Ask a neighbor to stop by periodically.
- Remove car keys from the home if driving is a concern.
- Install door alarms to alert family members whenever an exterior door is opened.
- Subscribe to a security monitoring system that notifies loved ones if the senior leaves the house.
- Install video cameras that family members can monitor at work and at home on their computers.
- Invest in a service like ‘ID Pup’ that embroiders a picture of a dog on the sleeve of the senior’s clothes. Police and others know that this insignia designates that the person has contact information embroidered on the underside of their clothing.
- Place a sign on the dashboard of your loved one’s car reading, “If I seem confused, please call police” or place a bumper sticker on the car reading, “Silver Alert: If this car is out after 8:00pm please notify police.”
- Continuously reevaluate the need for Assisted Living versus the feasibility of living alone. Progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s demand vigilance, and being prepared for changes in living arrangements may become necessary in time.
Thomas AndersonGeriatric Care Manager
Thomas Anderson has over 15 years of experience providing care and support to elderly individuals. He specializes in helping seniors manage their medical needs and navigate the healthcare system. Thomas keenly understands how to help aging adults stay as independent as possible while ensuring they have access to the best available resources.