Angelle Barbazon
Angelle Barbazon
On the Record is written by Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon. She covers Goshen, health issues, entertainment and features.

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Dementia and frigid weather can be a dangerous combination

An Alzheimer’s organization offers tips for preventing those with dementia from wandering in the winter.

Posted on Jan. 30, 2014 at 11:15 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 30, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.

Two seniors with dementia have gone missing from Goshen in the past week. One of the men, 77-year-old Noe D. Campos, was found safe 200 miles away in Bloomington on Monday, Jan. 27. Campos’ family had been worried because he has dementia, heart disease and diabetes and did not have vital medication with him.

And on Thursday, Jan. 30, the Goshen Police Department said 89-year-old Edward J. Tucker was reported missing by his family. He, too, has dementia and may be confused or disoriented, according to his family.

More than half of people with Alzheimer’s disease tend to wander because they lose their ability to recognize familiar places and people, and in subzero temperatures, that can be very dangerous, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter.

The association has a few tips to prevent people with dementia from going missing:

  • Night lights: Place throughout the home or facility.
  • Locks: Place out of sight. Install slide bolts at the top or bottom of doors.
  • Doors: Camouflage doors by painting them the same colors as the walls. Cover them with removable curtains or screens.
  • Door knobs: Cover knobs with cloth the same color as the door. Use childproof knobs.
  • Monitoring devices: Try devices that signal when a door is opened. Place a pressure-sensitive mat at the door or bedside to alert of movement.
  • Labeling: Label all doors. Use signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room.
  • Secure trigger items: Some people will not go out without a coat, hat, pocketbook, keys, wallet, etc. Making these items unavailable can prevent wandering.

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests planning ahead. Some more tips:

  • Enroll the person in MedicAlert®+ Alzheimer's Association Safe Return. Call (888) 572-8566 or enroll online at www.alz.org/safereturn.
  • Consider having the person carry or wear an electronic tracking GPS device that helps manage location. Comfort Zone and Comfort Zone Check-In are two options. Visit www.alz.org/comfortzone for details.
  • Keep a list of people for the person with dementia to call when feeling overwhelmed. Have their telephone numbers in one location and easily accessible.
  • Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person alone or dressed inappropriately.
  • Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to police.
  • Know your neighborhood. Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
  • Know if the individual is right or left-handed. Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand.
  • Keep a list of places where the person may wander, like past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.

If someone wanders, the association suggests searching the immediate area for no more than 15 minutes. If they’re not found, call 911 to report that a person with Alzheimer’s disease is missing. The organization also recommends filing a report with MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Safe Return at (800) 625-3780. First responders are trained to check with the program when they locate a missing person with dementia.

Have your own tips for keeping those with dementia safe during the winter? Post them in the comments section below.

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.


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