As I’ve mentioned on this blog, I co-authored a book for Alzheimer caregivers. I learned so much about the burden each caregiver carries. I wanted to include an essay that might be helpful to those whom I have come to admire for the difficult road they travel. If you are a caregiver, or know someone who is, I hope this information proves helpful.
October signals the arrival of the busiest time of year for many of us. It’s a short hop from Halloween to Thanksgiving. Then the head-long rush into the holiday season begins.
For Alzheimer caregivers, this time of year requires extra vigilance. Since many caregivers don’t have the luxury of another safe place for their loved one, it is often necessary to take them shopping.
If your shopping plans include taking an Alzheimer’s patient to a crowded shopping center or mall, you can minimize the chance of becoming separated from him or her. A few suggestions:
- Make sure he or she is wearing a belt, even if the outfit doesn’t call for one. A belt is a handy, quick way to grab hold of a person about to wander away.
- Call ahead to learn where the shopping center’s security office is. Look for and remember the location of all mall exits, elevators and escalators.
- Be aware that Alzheimer sufferers have heightened senses. Malls are noisy places normally, but for someone with Alzheimer’s, an announcement over a public address system, either in a store or in the mall itself, can startle that person. That voice could potentially frighten them and they may wander away from the perceived noise.
Wandering is a serious problem for those with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association has a program called Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return. For information about this program, go online to http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp#works or call: 1.888.572.8566. The program has successfully aided in the search for wanderers who have strayed from home.
Even in your own home, wandering is always a possibility. Here are a few simple ways to reduce the risk of losing track of wandering patients before they get beyond their own neighborhood. I know these suggestions sound like common sense, but for many caregivers, this is their first experience in a strange and difficult new world.
If someone with Alzheimer’s lives with you:
- Make sure all your neighbors know that an Alzheimer’s patient lives in your home. If that person is seen off your property, the neighbors will know to alert you or the police immediately.
- Give your neighbors your telephone number, especially if it is unlisted.
- Keep a current photo of your afflicted family member available. If possible, make a video of him or her for police.
- Keep an unwashed item of clothing that belongs to the person on hand. Police dogs may be able to locate a missing person from the scent left on clothing.
As always, constant vigilance plays a major role in Alzheimer’s caregiving. But don’t forget: Help is close by. The Alzheimer’s Association stands ready to assist all those who ask.
A suggestion for those who would like to help a caregiver in some way. If you turn around this simple sentence: “Let me know if I can help you” to “What can I do for you?” the caregiver may be more likely to suggest a specific way you can be of help.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wealth of information online. If you don’t have the time or are unfamiliar with Internet use, ask a family member or friend to do some research for you. Remember: libraries have free use of computers.
Here are a few links:
(Image of Cognitive Intelligence courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Photo of people in motion courtesy of Naypong@freedigitalphotos.net)