Note: Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer's groups in Washington. this article is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer's Association Inland NW Chapter.
One of the most challenging and terrifying issues facing those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, their families and caregivers is the problem of wandering. As Alzheimer's disease progresses, individuals become increasingly disoriented and may lose their ability to recognize once familiar people and places. Since it is hard to monitor your loved one every second of every day, many caregivers are likely to be affected by an episode of wandering. If not managed carefully, wandering can severely curtail one's independence. Wandering can also be very dangerous; one can become lost or even exposed to dangerous and life-threatening situations. It is also very distressing for family members and caregivers.
The Alzheimer's Association offers a number of resources that can be instrumental in helping to reduce wandering behavior. Through resource and educational material, Safe Return, and Care Track, the Alzheimer's Association can help you develop a plan for keeping your loved one safe while maximizing their independence, and help reduce your concerns about wandering.
Safe Return is a life-saving program developed by the Alzheimer's Association. Through a nationwide identification, support, and registration program, Safe Return works to help find a loved one who has wandered off and become lost.
Those enrolled in the Safe Return program receive an identification bracelet engraved with the 1-800 number to our national Safe Return office, which is staffed 24-hours a day. All incoming calls are immediately forwarded to the registrant's family or caregiver. The Alzheimer's Association also keeps an up-to-date description and photograph of your loved one. If the registrant is missing, Safe Return can fax the person's information and photograph to local law enforcement agencies.
In addition, Safe Return offers caregiver bracelets. Should you become incapacitated, the bracelet alerts others that you are caring for someone with impaired memory. It also lets them know that someone with impaired memory may be lost or wandering.
The Safe Return program boasts a remarkable success rate. Since it's inception in 1993, there have been 4,119 known instances where someone registered in Safe Return has wandered off and become lost. In 97% of those cases, the loved one was found and returned home safely.
Despite Safe Return's success rate, the Inland Northwest Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association (serving Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho) continually strives to find ways to improve our existing Safe Return program. Our Chapter was the first to introduce hi-tech tracking bracelets called Care Track. These bracelets contain tiny radio transmitters, which allow anyone with locator equipment to target the bracelet's radio beacon. The locator can detect a Care Track bracelet from a mile away on the ground, and from four miles away in the air.
Other Care Track products are also available that help keep loved ones from wandering. The Home Door Sentry Alarm alerts you when your loved one, wearing a Care Track bracelet, wanders past an allowable distance. It works by establishing an adjustable invisible boundary around your home. If your loved one wanders past a certain point, an alarm goes off. This invisible perimeter allows your loved one to enjoy the freedom of being outside, while providing peace of mind to families and caregivers.
To obtain additional information about Safe Return or Care Track, please contact the National Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-272-3900, the Western and Central Washington Chapter at 1-800-848-7097, or the Inland Northwest Chapter at 1-800-256-6659; or visit their website at www.alz.org.