A Focus on Reducing Wandering May Keep Seniors with Alzheimer’s Safer, but Where Do You Draw the Line? Ronald was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about seven months ago. It wasn’t a complete surprise to either him or his family, but it was still devastating. It took several weeks for Ronald to accept the diagnosis, and though he knew a little about it and what he might expect, he was still completely unprepared to fully appreciate the challenges he and his family were going to face.
One of the first things they talked about was the risk of wandering.
Safety was a major concern for Ronald and his family. He had read news stories regarding seniors who wandered off when suffering from dementia, got lost, and never made it home. He not only didn’t want to face that challenge for himself, he didn’t want his family to go through that stress.
Yet, Ronald was still lucid and cogent much of the day. He didn’t think it was necessary to be so concerned about wandering or other safety-related issues, at least not at that time. His family was adamant he take as many precautions as possible because, as they put it, “You never know when your mind is just not going to be right.”
These discussions at that time usually lead to arguments. Ronald would inevitably get frustrated as would his adult children and spouse. His wife of 53 years was already feeling overwhelmed with the struggles this diagnosis was posing.
The last thing she wanted to endure was wondering each night if he would get up, quietly slip down the hall, and head outside, not realizing it was the middle of winter.
They came to a compromise.
Sometimes, compromise is about the only thing people can do to ensure the safety of a senior diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia. This compromise involved putting deadbolts on all exterior doors that required a key from both sides. Ronald’s wife would wear one key around her neck at all times in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.
The other key would always be near the door during the day, but taken and put somewhere else at night. This way, if Ronald was having an episode and a lapse in memory or was disoriented, he would not remember where the key was and would, therefore, be prevented from slipping out of the house.
Ronald and his family needed to understand the boundaries involved in locking all exterior doors, but because he and the rest of them were open and honest in their communication, this compromise was reasonable.