Dealing with getting lost outdoors.
A walk to the mailbox, it seems so simple, but in the long run it can be very difficult for your loved one with dementia it is so easy getting lost. For her orientation in space and time she has to know where the street leads to. She must recognize buildings, bridges and green spaces in all seasons and weather conditions. If that does not function well anymore, she can easily get lost.
Getting lost in your own surroundings
Your loved one often still manage to find the familiar daily route to the supermarket. But if there are roadworks and she have to walk past or around it, she can easily get lost. Parking garages and shopping centers are pre-eminently environments in which your loved one will find it hard to find her way. Also giving directions to others becomes a difficult task.
While orienting yourself, different processes have to work together in the brain. If only one of those processes is affected by dementia, your loved one no longer knows where she is and will find it difficult to orientate.
Dilemma: whether or not to let go
As a caregiver you can be very worried if your loved one is walking alone. You may find it a scary idea that she wanders through the streets alone, but you do not want her to be locked up. In this case you are faced with a dilemma. For someone with dementia, exercise is very important. It is healthy, removes unrest and stimulates the brain. Locking doors is not desirable and even dangerous if, for example, fire breaks out. There are a number of ways to prevent your loved one from leaving her surroundings all the time. There are also devices to ensure that she can return home safely or to trace her when she is allowed to go out.
Have a look at our website for various devices. Sosbuddy.sg
What can you do?
Tips for when you decide to let your loved one walk on her own.
- Make your house visible on the outside and recognizable by, for example, hanging something recognizable on the façade or front door or using a special color for the door.
- Sometimes it helps to learn fixed routes by often walking them together with your loved one. Always follow the same route and make sure there are clear points of reference in the route.
- Make sure your loved one always has a card with her photo, name, telephone number and address with her.
- If it makes you more relaxed and if possible, tell the neighborhood what is going on. Residents can keep an eye on when they see your loved one walking. Will she regularly wander to the same places? Then tell a number of people in that specific area what is going on and give them your phone number so that they can call if necessary.
- You can consider buying a GPS device so that your loved one can always be traced. Many modern smartphones have a built-in GPS system.
In the article “Gps systems for seniors with dementia who wander” you can read more about this topic.
Tips for when it is safer not to let your loved one walk on her own.
- Make sure your loved one cannot leave the house without you knowing it. For example, hang a bell at the door and place baby monitors in strategic places.
- With a curtain or a colorful cloth in front of the door, you hide the way out, as it were. You can also hang a large photo, sticker or poster on the door. Such an image slows the incentive to open the door because it does not get recognized and then there is no need to go outside. A black doormat for some people with dementia seems to be a hole in the floor where they do not dare to step over. And maybe a simple ‘no exit’ sign is enough to keep your loved one inside and save her from getting lost.
- When there is a garden, make this a safe place where your loved one does not experience the need to go out on the street. With the fence or gate door you can do the same as with the front door. Paths that end at the door almost naturally lead her out. With paths that stop a bit in front of the door in grass or gravel, the logical path to the door and the outside disappears.
You might also want to read “Dealing with Dementia“.