Alzheimer's and Dementia, Caregivers, Senior Citizens
Is Dad At the Shelter?
Recently I was sitting down with some very good friends when a cell phone rang. A look of worry shot across my friend’s brow as he looked at me and apologized, “I’ve got to take this call… my Dad’s missing! He’s gone wandering…” I could not help but listen as he spoke to relatives several hundred miles away. He murmured hopefully, “Maybe they’ll bring Dad to the shelter.” After saying goodbye he looked at me with pain across his face and said, “Nobody knows where he is. He’s got Alzheimer’s, and my mom can’t keep him in the house anymore.” About 30 minutes later he got the call that Dad had been found and everything was okay—this time. As I sat there, I wondered if my friend knew of some of the resources available to help keep track of vulnerable or wandering loved ones—and it occurred to me that our readers may also be unaware of some of these resources. One of the reasons that having a wandering relative afflicted with dementia is so frightening is that they don’t act (or react) in the same way that a typical lost person would. A helpful page at Ask.com explains how wanderers with dementia will not cry out for help or respond to your calls to them, nor will they leave many physical clues to lead you to them. What a wanderer is likely to do is go to an old place of residence or a favorite location. Luckily, there are resources out there to help with wandering relatives—so you don’t have to just wait nervously by the phone. One of these resources is the Medic-Alert Safe-Return program detailed on the Alzheimer’s Association website. This program provides 24-hour nationwide assistance and supplies members with an individual emblem engraved with the program’s emergency response number. If you want to try to stop wandering at its source, the Mayo Clinic has a page detailing some of the reasons why elderly relatives may wander, and includes some suggestions on how you might prevent it. But remember—no matter how much you do, Mom or Dad may still wander. Don’t blame yourself if it happens! The best thing to do is be prepared for the occasions when the wandering does happen. Use the resources provided above, and keep other relatives and caregivers informed.