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On The Move

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 5)

The journal offers this three-step approach, developed at Mayo Clinic, to successful redirection.

First, validate the person’s apparent emotional state. (“You look worried.”) This helps establish rapport.

Secondly, join their behavior. A caregiver might say, “You’re looking for your children? Well, I’m trying to find something, too. Let’s look together.”

And finally, establish a common goal. Those with dementia are easier to distract after being treated as if they are needed, and part of a team. (“Let’s look over there where those people are having coffee.”)

Looking for the Lost

Even though redirection is a crucial part in providing care for a loved one with dementia, there are times the person simply goes missing.

In the “Caregivers Fact Sheet—Wandering in Dementia” by Meredeth Rowe, RN, PhD, it states that typically wanderers are found within five miles of their home. Her research also concludes that 90 percent walk away, five percent drive and very few use public transportation. 

This seasoned nurse says the first step is to contact law enforcement as 50 percent of the time this sector is the first to find a lost loved one with dementia. Then, conduct a search immediately. The person will NOT return by themselves. Have a search plan. A friends-and-family network is an essential tool to have in place, so when the caregiver is out searching, the police and other people will have someone by a phone who can inform the others out looking when news comes in.

“Rapid action is crucial in preventing injuries and death after you cannot locate your relative,” says Rowe. “Enlist your family and neighbors to rapidly search the immediate neighborhood including yards, sheds and cars, etc. for about 30 minutes.  If you haven’t found the person, call 911 – don’t wait more than 30 minutes at the most.” 

Also, it will not work to predict where they may wander. As caregivers, knowing why they wander is one thing, but predicting where they will go is another. At this point, the person is lost and has no clue where to head next.

“Most persons with dementia will remain in populated areas walking in neighborhoods, around or in businesses, or along roads,” Rowe adds.  “These people are easier to find, although it might take awhile.  A small percentage decide to seclude themselves in woods, natural areas, or abandoned buildings and are very difficult to find.  They hide themselves and don’t respond to searchers.  So even though a searcher is near them, they remain hidden.”

As a caregiver, first get help searching; and then, get moving!


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