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Wandering Can Be Dangerous For Those With Alzheimer's And Other Dementia

Neil. Moralee

An 81-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s is safe after being reported missing in Springfield Sunday night.

She had left home in a vehicle to go to the store, and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office issued an endangered silver advisory when she didn’t return home.

What’s referred to as wandering can be dangerous for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  According to Harrison Sand, care consultant manager for the Greater Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s estimated that six out of 10 people with dementia will wander.

He said there are signs that someone is at risk of wandering away from home and becoming lost.

"Someone is talking about going to work or going to visit their friends or family or someone that's wondering where their father is--their father's been passed for a long time--or someone that is asking to go home often.  These are signs that a person might think, 'I need to be somewhere,'" said Sand.

A person with dementia who wanders away from home can become dehydrated and even more confused, he said, and they can get injured or they could be taken advantage of.

Caregivers can reduce the risk of their loved ones wandering by keeping them engaged at home. That might be giving them tasks to do.

Sand suggests putting a bell or other noisemaker on doors so caregivers know if someone has left the house.  And even putting a stop sign on doors can help.

The Alzheimer's Association has a 24-hour helpline.  It's 1-800-272-3900.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.