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Senior Health Week: Alzheimer's Disease
Health News You Can Use •

Alzheimer News:

Safe Return Program Offers Tips for Wandering Alzheimer Patients

In observance of National Safety Month, the Alzheimer's Association reminds caregivers of its Safe Return Program, the only nationwide program to assist in the identification and safe return of Alzheimer's and dementia patients who wander and become lost.

Initiated in 1993, Safe Return Program was designed to assist families and caregivers with this common and potentially life-threatening behavior.

This common, potentially life-threatening behavior affects nearly six in every 10 Alzheimer's patients who may wander at some point. Many will do so repeatedly.

The causes for wandering are various, and include side effects from medicine, stress, confusion, agitation, and an inability to recognize familiar people, place and things.

Moreover, fewer than four percent will make it back home on their own (see earlier Alzheimer's Week story).

To date, the Safe Return Program has registered almost 86,000 individuals throughout the nation, and has helped locate and return 6,810 people to families and caregivers.

A one-time fee includes identification products, national photo and information database, a 24-hour, toll-free emergency hotline, local chapter support, and wandering behavior education and training for caregivers and families.

The association has offered these 10 tips to help deal with wandering:

  • Be prepared - there's no way to predict who will wander or when.
  • Encourage shared exercises to reduce anxiety and restlessness.
  • Be objective, and don't take the wandering personally.
  • Be aware of household and neighborhood hazards.
  • Make your home safe and secure.
  • Remind and reassure the patient that you know how to find him.
  • Identify the person, with a bracelet or necklace, and mark clothing, keys, eyeglasses and other belongings.
  • Involve your neighbors and keep names and numbers handy.
  • Involve the police, who often keep photos and fingerprints of patients on file.
  • Be aware of other modes of wandering, including cars, trains, airplanes and public transportation.

For additional information, or to register an Alzheimer's patient, call the Alzheimer's Association at 800.272.3900.

Source: Alzheimer Week of June 23, 2002

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