Wandering alerts: What device will alert me if my dad starts wandering away?

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What device will alert me if my dad starts wandering away?

Question

I am working from home in order to keep my job and look after my dad, who has dementia. I can settle him into his favourite chair to watch TV and read while I am working, but he is starting to wander and I worry that one day he will leave the house without me knowing. I need some kind of tool that will stop him from wandering or an alarm that will tell me when he gets up from the chair so that I can get to him before he gets too far. Do you know of a device that will help me?

Our answer

Wandering is common among those with dementia. To prevent a dangerous situation from occurring and to reduce your stress as a caregiver, it may be useful to invest in a wandering alert system for your dad. Below are direct links to a number of products you may want to explore:

  • Adjustable Stop Sign Banner by Safe-T-Mate(at Alzheimer’s Store Canada) is a simple banner with a bright red and yellow "STOP" sign that easily attaches to a standard door frame. This tool provides a strong visual reminder to people with dementia not to enter an unsafe area. This product costs about $60 (Cdn), plus an additional shipping fee. 
  • Pressure Sensitive Bed Chair Patient Alarm, by Drive MedicalThe Pressure Sensitive Bed Chair Patient Alarm by Drive Medical (at amazon.ca) is a device that alerts you with an audio alarm each time your loved one gets out of a chair or bed. This product costs about $115 (Cdn). Keep in mind that a loud alarm can be frightening and disruptive for some individuals with dementia, and you may want to explore how your dad reacts to an alarm before purchasing one. Alternatively, bed alarm systems with wireless pagers are also available for purchase.
  • The Two Zone Wander Alert System (at Alzheimer’s Store Canada) consists of a sensor, which is placed alongside a bed or a chair, and a pager, which will receive an alert signal when movement is detected. This system comes with a sensor for two zones, allowing you to place a sensor near your loved one’s favourite chair and near his or her bed, for added comfort. This product costs about $250 (Cdn), plus an additional shipping fee.

The Alzheimer's Association also provides a useful guide of strategies to prevent wandering.

Depending on your location within BC, you might also be interested in exploring options with Project Lifesaver - a community based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, and caregivers with a program designed to protect, and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering. There are local chapters in Greater VictoriaNanaimo, and Surrey.

Some technologies and devices may require an in-person assessment. Speak with your health care provider for additional information and support.

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