For family members of those living with Alzheimer’s, the OnStar Guardian app can offer added peace of mind
Caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s can be rewarding — and often stressful. One nerve-wracking aspect of Alzheimer’s is “wandering,” a common symptom where a person living with the disease becomes confused about their location, gets lost or wanders away from home.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association,® one of the organizations that OnStar partners within its mission to help keep people safe everywhere, six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once, and many do so repeatedly. The Alzheimer’s Association says that wandering “can be dangerous — even life-threatening — and the stress of this risk weighs heavily on caregivers and family.”
With more than six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, it’s crucial for caregivers to know what to do in these situations — and time is of the essence when someone with Alzheimer’s wanders or gets lost. So critical to begin search-and-rescue efforts immediately.
If a loved one with Alzheimer’s does wander or go missing, here are the steps to take to help find them and bring them to safety:
Take action when wandering occurs
- Start search efforts immediately. When looking, consider whether the individual is right- or left-handed. Wandering patterns generally follow the direction of the dominant hand.
- Begin by looking in the surrounding vicinity. Many individuals who wander are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.
- Check local landscapes, such as ponds, tree lines or fence lines — many individuals are found within brush or brier.
- If applicable, search areas the person has wandered to in the past.
- If possible, attempt to locate the person by checking any location-sharing apps installed on their phone, such as the OnStar Guardian® app.*
- If the person is not found within 15 minutes, call 911 to file a missing person’s report.
- When filling out a missing person’s report, make sure the police understand that the missing person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and is a vulnerable adult.
- For additional assistance, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.
Information to have on hand
If you need to file a missing person’s report, have the following ready to provide to the police:
- An updated photo
- List of current medications
- Where and when the individual was last seen
- What they were wearing when last seen
- If the person has a preferred name or nickname
Caregivers can also take steps to help reduce the likelihood of a family member wandering in the first place. The Alzheimer’s Association and the Mayo Clinic suggest the following preventive measures:
Ideally, somebody should be home with the person living with Alzheimer’s at all times. Avoid leaving them alone in a car, and stay with them when moving into a new environment.
Hide the keys
If your loved one is no longer able to drive, remove access to any car keys. It can also make sense to conceal shoes, coats, wallets and purses, or other items that are necessary for leaving home.
Consider installing devices that can alert you if the person living with dementia attempts to leave the home. These may include warning bells or pressure-sensitive alarm mats at doorways, or an alarm system that chimes when a door is opened. Also consider safety covers on door knobs and, if the person unlocks doors, place deadbolts outside of their line of sight.
A simple but effective way to help prevent wandering can be by simply covering doors with removable curtains or paint or wallpaper that matches the adjacent walls. Or, you might consider warning signs that say “Stop” or “Do not enter.”
Add barriers outdoors
Installing hedges or fences around outdoor spaces, like yards or patios, can help prevent the person from wandering away from the home.
Create a daily plan
Having a specific schedule for your loved one, as well as a set time to check in on them, can help keep them occupied and reduce the risk of wandering.
Added peace of mind from Guardian
In addition to in-person supervision, the OnStar Guardian app is an easy, reliable way to stay up to date on your loved ones’ whereabouts. In the case of a someone with dementia, it can be a valuable tool in locating them quickly if they wander away. Learn more about how the Guardian app can help you.
When you download the Guardian app on your compatible phone, you can invite up to seven loved ones to join your “My Family” group.* Everyone in the “My Family” group can access key OnStar safety services within the app — like Mobile Crash Response — and can enjoy the benefits of Location Status.* That allows for viewing and sharing locations with one another on a map, as well as the ability to see other family members’ cellphone battery life status.
So, if a loved one with Alzheimer’s wanders, and they have their mobile device with them, the other members of their “My Family” group can use the app to immediately see their location on a live map.
Download the OnStar Guardian app to enjoy the added peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re helping protect your loved ones. OnStar has donated more than half a million dollars to the Alzheimer’s Association to continue its mission to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.