Almost daily we read reports of someone with Alzheimer's or a related dementia who wandered out the door and is now missing. Many cases involve happy reunions, though some like this case in Detroit do not.
One program we recommend for caregivers to consider is the Alzheimer's Association's MedicAlert + Safe Return program. The George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Centers are official registration sites, which means anyone can come to one of our centers and register their loved one for a national database. You can also go online to purchase a MedicAlert ID bracelet or pendent as part of the program.
Once enrolled, a caregiver now has a powerful tool to track down their loved one in the event they are missing. With one call to a toll-free number, an alert is simultaneously sent to multiple agencies, including police and sheriff's deputies. The sooner and more widely spread the alert, the more quickly someone can be found. If the lost person is wearing ID, a citizen or emergency personnel who finds a wanderer can call the same toll-free number on the bracelet or pendant.
"Particularly with the holidays, when we're unusually busy and easily distracted with house guests or tied up with shopping and gift-wrapping, Alzheimer's patients may wander without anyone immediately noticing. The chaos that comes with the holidays can be upsetting to them," said Kelly Focht, CEO of the Glenner's Alzheimer's Family Centers.
She recommends that caregivers make sure any visitors or houseguests understand there is someone at home who may wander; do not assume people will keep an eye on them for you when you're in another room or part of the house. Also, keep doors locked and use home alarms if you can to alert you when a door is opened.
See our previous post on What to Do About Wandering.