The current situation with COVID-19 has us thinking more about how we can help our older family members. With more families contemplating taking their older parents out of senior living long-term care facilities, we are asking how can we prepare? Some have added pressures of caring for a parent with cognitive conditions like dementia to also consider. One of the biggest concerns for families of older family members is having our loved one wander off and become disoriented. We checked-in with Catherine Horlock, MedicAlert Connect Protect Program Director, to discuss a few simple steps families to consider and prepare should they decide to bring a loved one home.

“Statistics show that 6 out of 10 individuals dealing with dementia will wander,” says Horlock. “Our unique partnership with Canadian Police Forces helps educate police to look for a MedicAlert ID which immediately informs them that they’re dealing with someone who has a cognitive condition.”

Tips to Help Prevent Wandering:

Carry out daily activities to bring structure to the day…
• Organize structured family touch points with your parent.
• Structure calls with family members.
• Use video calls to provide a greater sense of connection, FaceTime is great for this.

Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur…
• Plan your structured family touch points at those times.
• Exercise together. Light exercise or stretching can reduce anxiety, cooped-up feelings of agitation and restlessness.

Make a Plan – just in case:

Know the neighbourhood…
• Ask parent about their neighbourhood landmarks (or if it’s your neighbourhood venture out for walks and point out landmarks  like stores, banks, schools, etc that stand out)
• Use Google Maps and Street Views to map out neighbourhood together.
• Keep a list of places where your parent might wander. The list could include former homes, frequented neighbour/friend homes, grocery stores and/or corner stores, restaurants and places of worship.

Keep recent, close-up photo and medical information on-hand…
• Enroll your parent in a wandering response service like MedicAlert. The MedicAlert BLUE emblem logo wearable products are for individuals dealing with dementia and other cognitive conditions. The logo also is easily recognizable and provides first-responders to essential information:
– Wandering history
– Vital emergency health information
– Identification and photo

“In cases of search and rescue, time is the most important predictor of success,” says Horlock. “On average, MedicAlert subscribers who are found wandering are united with their family or care-provider within 15 minutes to 6 hours.”

Also, check if medical information is up-to-date…

• Patient health information is readily available.
• Ensure medical records are up-to-date and easily accessible.

For more information & tips or on MedicAlert services or to quickly register a loved one in the Connect Protect program visit medicalert.ca