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Alzheimer’s Association provides safety tips for cold weather

The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana issued the following statement Tuesday:

INDIANAPOLIS, January 21, 2014 – Six in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander. Alzheimer’s disease causes millions of Americans to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces, increasing their risk of wandering and getting lost. In cold temperatures and winter weather conditions, wandering, although common, can be dangerous – even life-threatening – and is a significant safety concern.

“As weather becomes dangerous it is vital to keep your loved one with dementia safe by taking simple precautions to prevent wandering, such as motion detectors, window alarms and creating activities in the home that will reduce agitation,” says Linda Altmeyer, Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter Director of Programs.

Consider the home environment:

  • Night-lights: Place throughout the home or facility.
  • Locks: Place out of sight. Install slide bolts at the top or bottom of doors.
  • Doors: Camouflage doors by painting them the same colors as the walls. Cover them with removable curtains or screens.
  • Door knobs: Cover knobs with cloth the same color as the door. Use childproof knobs.
  • Monitoring devices: Try devices that signal when a door is opened. Place a pressure-sensitive mat at the door or bedside to alert of movement.
  • Labeling: Label all doors. Use signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room.
  • Secure trigger items: Some people will not go out without a coat, hat, pocketbook, keys, wallet, etc. Making these items unavailable can prevent wandering.

When weather temperatures plummet and staying indoors is encouraged, planning ahead for your loved one can be crucial for his or her safety. “The Alzheimer’s Association can help with activity suggestions, communication and how to identify confusion and the triggers that increase the incidence of wandering,” says Altmeyer. Have a plan in place beforehand, so you know what to do in case of an emergency.

Planning Ahead:

  • Enroll the person in MedicAlert®+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. Call 888.572.8566 or enroll online at www.alz.org/safereturn.
  • Consider having the person carry or wear an electronic tracking GPS device that helps manage location. Comfort Zone® and Comfort Zone Check-In® are two options. Visit www.alz.org/comfortzone for further information.
  • Keep a list of people for the person with dementia to call when feeling overwhelmed. Have their telephone numbers in one location and easily accessible.
  • Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person alone or dressed inappropriately.
  • Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to police.
  • Know your neighborhood. Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
  • Know if the individual is right or left-handed. Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand.
  • Keep a list of places where the person may wander, like past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.

If the person does wander, search the immediate area for no more than 15 minutes. Call 911 and report that a person with Alzheimer’s disease — a "vulnerable adult" — is missing. A Missing Report will be filed, and the police will begin to search for the individual. In addition, a report should be filed with MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return at 800.625.3780. First responders are trained to check with MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return when they locate a missing person with dementia. You do not need to be enrolled in MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return in order to file a missing report.

For more information, call 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/Indiana.

About the Alzheimer’s Association:

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. Visit alz.org/indiana or call 800.272.3900.

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