Alzheimers Home > Alzheimer's Disease and Safety Behavior-by-Behavior

As Alzheimer's disease progresses, some behavioral changes can create safety problems -- though not everyone with the disease will experience the same changes. Addressing some commonly seen behaviors (and implementing strategies to deal with them) can help keep the person with Alzheimer's disease safe. These behaviors include: wandering; rummaging; hiding things; and hallucinations, illusions, and delusions. It is also important to plan for safe holidays and other gatherings.

Alzheimer's Disease and Safety Behavior-by-Behavior: An Overview

Although a number of behavior and sensory problems may accompany Alzheimer's disease, not every person will experience the disease in exactly the same way. As the disease progresses, particular behavioral changes can create safety problems. The person with Alzheimer's disease may or may not have these symptoms. However, should these behaviors occur, the following safety recommendations may help to reduce risks.
 

Wandering

Safety recommendations to reduce the chances of wandering include:
 
  • Remove clutter and clear the pathways from room to room to allow the person with Alzheimer's disease to move about more freely.
 
  • Make sure floors provide good traction for walking or pacing. Use nonskid floor wax or leave floors unpolished. Secure all rug edges, eliminate throw rugs, or install nonskid strips. The person with Alzheimer's disease should wear nonskid shoes or sneakers.
 
  • Place locks on exit doors high or low on the door out of direct sight. Consider double locks that require a key. Keep a key for yourself and hide one near the door for emergency exit purposes.
 
  • Use loosely fitting doorknob covers so that the cover turns instead of the actual knob. Due to the potential hazard they could cause if an emergency exit is needed, locked doors and doorknob covers should be used only when a caregiver is present.
 
  • Install safety devices found in hardware stores to limit the distance that windows can be opened.
 
  • If possible, secure the yard with fencing and a locked gate. Use door alarms such as loose bells above the door or devices that ring when the doorknob is touched or the door is opened.
 
  • Divert the attention of the person with Alzheimer's disease away from using the door by placing small scenic posters on the door; placing removable gates, curtains, or brightly colored streamers across the door; or wallpapering the door to match any adjoining walls.
 
  • Place STOP, DO NOT ENTER, or CLOSED signs in strategic areas on doors.
 
  • Reduce clues that symbolize departure such as shoes, keys, suitcases, coats, or hats.
 
  • Obtain a medical identification bracelet for the person with Alzheimer's disease with the words "memory loss" inscribed along with an emergency telephone number. Place the bracelet on the person's dominant hand to limit the possibility of removal, or solder the bracelet closed.
 
  • Place labels in garments to aid in identification. Check with the local Alzheimer's Association about the Safe Return program.
 
  • Keep an article of the person's worn, unwashed clothing in a plastic bag to aid in finding someone with the use of dogs.
 
  • Notify neighbors of the person's potential to wander or become lost. Alert them to contact you or the police immediately if the individual is seen alone and on the move.
 
  • Give local police, neighbors, and relatives a recent picture, along with the name and pertinent information about the person with Alzheimer's disease, as a precaution should he or she become lost. Keep extra pictures on hand.
 
  • Consider making an up-to-date home video of the person with Alzheimer's disease.
 
  • Do not leave a person with Alzheimer's disease who has a history of wandering unattended.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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