August 17th, 2019

Aging with Grace…

It’s already Daylight Savings Time and before you know it spring will be here. Along with the change in seasons come a few concerns for those caring for a loved one with any form of dementia. Our letters in this column address a couple of the more pressing concerns, wandering and dressing appropriately for the weather.

Dear Grace,
My dad has dementia and lives with me. Recently he took off for a walk when I was out of the room for a few moments. I quickly went outside, he was nowhere to be seen and it took me about 15 minutes to finally find him. Of course, he didn’t think it was a big deal but I was scared to death. This is the first time he’s ever done this, so how do I stop it or prevent it happening again?

Dear Joanne,
Wandering is a serious and frightening issue but there are several ways to prevent this or at least make it easier to locate him when he does go out on his own.
Preventing Wandering:
-Add extra lock to outside doors, up higher where they won’t be seen as easily
-Place black rugs in front of exit doors (these appear as a black hole to someone with dementia)
-Place a STOP sign on the exit door(s); sometimes that is enough to stop a person leaving
-Add alarms to doors that alert you when the door is opened
-If your loved one is restless, try redirecting their attention to an activity they enjoy or perhaps take a walk with them.

Location Devices:
-There are numerous types of tracking devices available, however it’s important to research these and choose the one that works best for your area and situation. These devices use GPS, cell towers or radio frequencies and can be expensive.
-The Alzheimer’s Association with Medic-Alert offers a program (Medic-Alert & Safe Return) that utilizes personalized ID jewelry and a 24-hour emergency response service for a reasonable yearly fee. For more information on this call 1-888-572-8566

Dear Grace,
I’m caring for my mother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’m really struggling with the way she dresses; when it’s cold she wears shorts and when it’s hot she has on long pants and a sweater. Do you have any suggestions for this?

Dear Charlie,
My first thought is when winter ends pack away all the heavier winter clothing so only lightweight clothing is in her closet and bureaus. Repeat this process as the seasons change which will help somewhat. As the illness progresses, it will become more difficult for her to choose clothes to wear and it will help if you lay out the next day’s clothes for her which will also help with this issue.

As always, the information I provide is fairly generic since I don’t know the writers or their loved ones. Do not hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss these issues in more detail. I can be reached at deargrace@pibarre.giffordhealthcare.org or write to Dear Grace, c/o Project Independence, 81 N. Main St. – Ste. 1, Barre, VT 05641-4283

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