Help and Protection for People Who Wander

Elizabeth Bravo Santiago,
Director of Wanderer's Safety Program

2020 has been an extraordinary year and as a society we have been forced to adjust to a new normal. Person-to-person engagement has migrated to virtual platforms, masks are mandatory in many settings, and standards for cleanliness are tighter than ever.

But with all these changes, one thing remains the same: wandering continues to be common among  persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. As caregivers stay home more, they are beginning to realize that the person with dementia may be at risk for wandering.

Though the Covid-19 pandemic has created difficult challenges for caregivers, mainly due to the change of the daily routine, there are steps we can take to reduce the risk of wandering. First, recognize some familiar signs that may indicate a person may be at risk for wandering: saying things like “I want to go home” or “I need to go to work”; demonstrating increased restlessness, agitation, and pacing; and/or not remembering to come back into the house or apartment when outside, especially if they are in unfamiliar surroundings.

Second, it is important for caregivers to identify the time of day when signs of potential wandering occur and begin to plan indoor activities to occupy the person. Some activities you may consider include dancing, singing along to some Motown music, and cooking; or perhaps you have several household plants that need re-potting; and there is nothing wrong with just sitting together, giving each other a hug, and reminding the person you are there for them.

We know that six out of ten people with dementia will wander, not remember their name, and become disoriented — even in familiar places. So, if you have not done so already, I recommend you enroll the person you are caring for into our MedicAlert®NYC Wanderer’s Safety Program.

Our service provides:

24/7 Emergency Response Service
Trained professionals are available around the clock to provide critical information to emergency responders.

Emergency Health Record and Personal Profile
Stored in a secure national database and includes a current photo, important physical characteristics of the person, medical conditions, medications or any known allergies, and emergency contact information.

24/7 Wandering Support
First responders will know exactly who the person is. Local law enforcement who partner with CaringKind and MedicAlert will assist in responding to incidents of persons who have wandered locally or far from home, or who have a medical emergency.

To better serve you, we now offer Spanish, Chinese, and English online enrollment for all New York City residents. Feel free to contact our Helpline if you have any questions at 646-744-2900.  Stay safe and healthy!

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