Sam Bauman: Wandering off is common among dementia patients
October 15, 2013
News bulletin: Recently, Google listed 10 reports of missing seniors who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Apparently, they had simply wandered off.
The Alzheimer's Association reports six in every 10 people with Alzheimer's disease wander and become lost. If wanderers are "not found within 24 hours, up to half will suffer serious injury or death," the association says.
As an RSVP Respite worker, I have faced the problem many times, usually with few consequences. But I clearly remember my first case of it. The client was in his mid-70s and one of my first. His wife had warned me of is wandering habits. It started out with his desire to stand outside his upscale home "waiting for his daughter who lived down the street."
She never stopped by, but once in a mild snowstorm I went back in the house to get a jacket. I came out and he was gone. He'd made it about a block away, and I had to convince him that we had to get back to his home.
"Where are we?" he asked.
A totally different cast is a current Respite client of mine, another Alzheimer's patient. When I started sitting with him, he would tell me it was time for him to "make his rounds" picking up trash around the neighborhood. Together we would walk the area, him picking up trash.
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Last summer, when it was in the 90s, I was a little hot and asked his caregiver about the local walk.
"He does it every day. Don't worry about it; all my neighbors know him and watch over him," she said. "Don't bother walking with him; he always comes home."
Leaving a client to walk about alone is forbidden by RSVP Respite rules, but I reluctantly let him go out alone. I always keep a lookout to make sure he didn't leave the neighborhood.
SKIING FOR SENIORS
If you're a senior and are considering skiing, or if you once skied but gave it up as you aged, it's a new world out there on the slopes. It's better, easier and more fun as long as you don't get carried away with a lust for speed. Be sure to try a session with a Professional Ski Instructors of America member. PSIA tests and certifies instructors as skilled professionals.
You also will face a bewildering selection of currently popular skis and boots. The old "straight ski" with little or no side cut has been replaced by shorter, hourglass-shaped skis. And there are now "rocker" skis with camber as never before. Both styles make skiing easier and more fun, particularly for seniors returning to the sport. And why not? What the point of living in Nevada if you don't ski or hike the mountains?
Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.