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Your Healthy Family: Wandering is a big risk for people with Alzheimer's

Posted at 8:21 AM, Nov 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 08:21:19-05

November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. It can affect people in different ways, including making some wander.

Six in ten people living with dementia will wander at least once, and many will repeatedly.

“I think that often times, 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. 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," Shaina Meyer, an Occupational Therapist for Cleveland Clinic, said.

She said in most cases, wandering is harmless, like repetitive pacing. But it can lead to dangerous situations, including becoming lost or even elopement, which means trying to escape. Meyer said there are many things a caretaker or family members can do to help keep their loved one with dementia safe. You can add new locks on the doors, install an alarm system, or use 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,” Meyer said.

She also said it's important to know the person’s usual behavior and signs they might be getting ready to wander.