(LEX 18) — With cold weather here to stay, the Alzheimer's Association Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana chapter is urging caregivers for vulnerable adults to be vigilant in monitoring their loved ones.
"[Wandering] certainly can become problematic," said April Stauffer, the community outreach coordinator for the organization's Kentucky chapter. "Especially during the winter time when someone leaves the house."
In an interview with LEX 18, Stauffer explained that wandering is a type of behavior that usually happens when someone has an unmet need and may not know how to say what that person needs.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, six in ten people with dementia will wander.
"It may not necessarily mean that a person with dementia is lost," she said. "It means that they are looking for something."
During the winter, Stauffer warned a person with dementia may get lost and freeze or be unable to detect that a sidewalk or driveway is covered by ice.
To prevent wandering, the Alzheimer's Association urges caregivers to take steps that include using devices to signal when a door or window is opened, identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur and have a routine that provides structure.
Sarah Hornback of Hodgenville is the primary caregiver for her mother Dolly, 86, who moved in almost two years ago.
"She was very much into genealogy and local history," Hornback said. "And so we try to offer things that have a lot of pictures, but that stimulate memories that she had of our community and our family."
Hornback said Dolly is in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer's. Although she is not as mobile as she once was, Dolly still wanders around the house.
"We do have alarms on our doors," Hornback said. "We have cameras, motion sensitive lights, night lights. We have a lot of tools in place."
The Alzheimer's Association advises caregivers to call 911 if their loved one has wandered and not been found within 15 minutes. The organization also offers a free, 24/7 hotline at 800-272-3900.