Kayannette Gabrielle was just 56 years old when she went missing from her Valencia, California home in 2006. She was reported missing but her disappearance remained a mystery for police. About 4 years ago she showed up on the radar in Santa Barbara, California, some 75 miles away from home, with no memory of her name, her history or family. She has been surviving on the streets, sleeping outside the library and in shelters. She was befriended by community members who watched out for her; providing her support, both mentally and physically. One day, something just “clicked” and she remembered her name. One of her new-found friends entered her information into a missing persons database, and there she was! On March 4, 2017, 11 years after she went missing, she was reunited with her family.
Kayannette’s family cried the happiest tears when they heard that she was found. Many families never get to the happy tears. They only experience the sad tears. You should never have to endure such an experience as your senior leaving the home one day and never returning.
I have heard too many families say “but they don’t wander”. Well, no senior wanders until the first time they wander, then it’s too late. It’s like saying you have never gotten in a car accident before so you don’t see the need for seat belts for you and the kids. If you are a caregiver taking care of a senior who suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or has other memory deficits, then they are at risk unless they are bed bound. You have to take precautionary measures; just in case. Luckily, today there are many things that you can do to avoid your senior leaving the home and getting lost; potentially never to be found. In addition to the close supervision that you give, the following are a few of the things that you can put in place in increase safety for your senior.
If there is someone else living in the home, a bed alarm is a quick and easy way to be alerted every time your senior gets up out of bed, chair or wheelchair. They come in several varieties including with a signal alarm on the bed or chair, or the alarm doesn’t even have to be on the bed; it can be in another room. Or you can be paged if the senior gets up. Some are wireless, others plug in.
Much like bed alarms, door alarms will alert you if your senior exits the home during the night, or even during the day, for that matter.
Medical ID Bracelets / Jewelry
ID bracelets are not the ugly metal dog-tag type any more (well, if you like dog-tags, they are still available too). There are many that look like fashion jewelry that anyone would like to wear. Some are interchangeable and there are great styles for both men and women. Often, seniors refuse to wear medical ID bracelets. As a way to encourage your senior to wear one, avoid telling them that they need it in case they wander off. Instead, tell them that it make you feel better since you can’t always be with them. You could also give a beautiful piece of medi-cal ID jewelry as a gift, or buy a matching one for yourself to encourage their wearing it. You can find some very nice medical ID bracelets and jewelry at LaurensHope and at AmericanMedical ID.
MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program not only has the ID bracelet, but seniors with Alzheimer’s disease are also registered in their system, including description and picture. If a senior is missing, a community support network will be activated to look for the senior and make sure they are located and safe.
You could sew identifying fabric labels into your senior’s most frequently used clothing. I found a company that will custom make 25 labels for $19.95. You can customize your label to say anything, including “ I have Memory Deficits – Call XXX-XXX-XXXX”. You can order these at LabelWeavers.
When your senior wants to continue their independence and get out of the house on their own, but you worry about them getting lost, technology has come to the rescue. SmartSole is a wearable GPS created by GTX Corp. that is hidden in the sole of your senior’s shoe. It’s discrete and your senior may not even know that it is there. It comes with an App that enables you to receive a text if the senior wanders out of, or leaves, a designated geographic area. That area is predetermined by you and can be small or large. You can also get an instant location report as well as recent locations visited. It is pricey; over $300 for one pair of soles, plus you pay a monthly service fee, but it is well worth it for a senior who is in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who still wants to maintain their independence. (But I think it will work well on my teenage son, too!)
Please do what you can to prevent wandering, or make it easier to locate them if they do get lost, even if you don’t really think that it will ever happen. This is your seat belt, just in case.