Friday, July 10, 2015

What To Do When A Dementia Patient Wanders

What happens when someone wanders? There are several things that happen, and they are like a chain reaction type thing.
First and foremost, there is panic. Sheer panic. You know the panic you have felt when one of your children are out of your line of sight for just a minute in any public.
That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. All of us have witnessed this, but when you realize your loved one has indeed wandered off, it is too late.
The unthinkable has just happened. This is one of these things that when it happens to a family, they can never believe it happened to them.
"Dad never even attempted to wander in his entire life"....well, things have changed with Dad, and now he has once, and most likely will again.
The first mistake people make when someone wanders is looking for them. What you say? Of course I am going to look for my loved one. Are you insane?
The very first thing you need to if you even suspect your loved one has wandered is call 911.
This is an emergency. And every second you waste looking for them yourself is precious seconds that matter. Get ahold of law enforcement.
They are privy to many more resources than you, maybe another family member, and a handful of neighbors have.
Then stay put. Chances are, the person who has wandered, won't return on their own. They are most likely confused, and probably lost. But, when found it is important that the officer have somewhere to take the person found.
If you are out scouring the countryside, this will not be able to be done. I have conducted training seminars on wandering and I am here to tell you once that person is found, and it is usually by the police, but once they are found you need to be there. If you are not at home, then you need to go to where the police have found them.
I recommend this more than having them bring the person to you. The faster they see you, the better for everyone.
Trust me when I say, the police have more resources than you when it comes to searching, but they do not have the training to be able to deal with a frightened, panic stricken, confused, agitated, irate, dementia patient.
If you think they do, you are wrong. We think they would be, but trust me on this, they on a whole are not equipped to handle what they have found. This is not your average runaway.
This person will be in a state that the officer most likely has never, ever encountered. Thinking they know what to do is what we call a false sense of security. We all want to think that everyone is trained in what ever crisis your loved one is in. Wandering is not at the top of the list in law enforcement. It just isn't.
Now, I am in no way knocking what are courageous police officers or EMS do on a daily basis. But, this is not routine. Far from it. If they had any training on this it most likely has been years ago, and there most likely isn't any ongoing training to deal with wandering dementia patients.
There just isn't. And that's the truth. I have been there, done that. If you find an agency of law enforcement that actively train on wandering dementia patients it would be a first.
So...back to my original thought. The very first thing to do is call 911. Hopefully you have taken our advice here on Mp and take a daily picture of your loved one in case something like this happens.
I can tell you when someone is missing, the family has a hard time describing what they look like, let alone what they had on.
Take a picture. We all have cell phones. Use them. And call 911. If by chance they are just in the basement or you see them in the backyard, just call back and say you have located them.
These agencies get paid to do what they do, and that includes looking for wandering dementia patients, or anybody that is missing for that matter.
Make sure you tell the officers what your loved one likes to be called. If his name is Robert, but he goes by Bob, tell them. If her name is Mary, but everyone calls her Granny...tell them.
The one thing a dementia patient does not want to hear is Sir or Mam coming from a complete stranger in uniform. They want to be politically correct, but that is not the time.
If your loved one doesn't wander, that means they haven't yet. There is always that chance. Just because they haven't doesn't mean they won't.
And if they have, that doesn't mean they won't again. And this wandering thing can occur anywhere in a split second. In a grocery store, a bank, a mall, church, a facility, and yes, even from home.
Be alert. Be vigilant. No one likes our elderly or dementia patients to be compared to children, but you lose one and they indeed have that effect.
It is like I said as if one of your children is missing. The time to panic is after you call 911. They will ask where they might be, because they don't understand dementia.
There is no place they might be. Even if they had a certain place in mind they were going to, they would never get there.
I once found a 86 year old gentleman who had just drove right through huge entrance gates to a luxury golf course. He was at the clubhouse, in his vehicle going round, and round, and round.
I had to get the vehicle stopped, and you can imagine what kind of state he was in. He had was from a town three hours away but had been missing for five hours.
It's impossible to know where he had been. I contacted an emergency number he had in his wallet, and the family were on their way. But that was at least a three hour drive.
So I had the daughter tell me everything she could about her Dad. What he liked, what he used to do, what he liked to be called, I also wanted in detail about his wife, and other family members.
I had to talk to this gentleman as if I had known him for years. It all ended well, but could have easily been a disaster. And I am sure to this day, that what took place here would not be considered a success to the family who had to live the nightmare of Dad wandering off, in his car, no less.
Dementia patients will drive away. You never know when. You never know why. Most people think of wandering as if they just wandered off. They can, but they can also "wander off" hundreds of miles away.
Driving is sometimes one of the last things a dementia patient loses. The ability to drive. And for whatever reason the family hasn't done anything to try to stop this.
They don't want to be the bad guy and take Dad's last thing he can do away. The taking of ones drivers license is a topic for another day, just know that they can and do drive hundreds of miles, in no particular pattern.
What law enforcement does it take the time they have been missing, and if it involves a vehicle, they multiply the number of minutes or hours they have been gone by 60 miles an hour.
Then they will inform all the other law enforcement agencies in that circle that they have made...Three hours, would include a circumference of 180 miles from their last known location. Which sometimes isn't known either.
They have to assume that your loved one is on the highway, not just joy riding around town.