I'm concerned about wandering. Is there an ID bracelet that would be next to impossible for her to remove?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 08, 2016
Akaheba asked...

I telecommute so luckily I can be home most of the time, but I worry about my mom possibly slipping out w/o my seeing her. So, I put a driveway gate up and locked .it. I locked the yard gate. She can get out of the house but not off the property. I don't feel right locking the driveway gate when I leave (maybe once or twice per week at most), so that gives her a 2 or 3 hour window to "escape" if she wanted. Her friend, who lives 3 houses down is the only place she will venture SO FAR. They have both lived in their homes for over 50 years. But I know one day without warning that could change and she could wander off. I was thinking of getting one of those ID bracelets/necklace and having her wear it basically 24/7. However, the problem is I know that she would just take it off, prob lose it. Does anyone know of an ID bracelet that would be next to impossible for her to remove?

Expert Answers

Kathryn Pears, who has a master's in public policy and management, has been involved in dementia care for 30 years. She was a caregiver for her father, who had early onset Alzheimer's disease, and cared for him at home until his death in 1991. She was director of Public Policy and Education for the Alzheimer's Association, Maine chapter, until June 2011, when she left to create Dementia Care Strategies, where she provides consulting and training services to family and professional caregivers about all aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. In addition, she has led multiple legislative initiatives in Maine to improve care for individuals living with dementia, including passage of a Silver Alert program to track missing people with dementia as well as special care unit disclosure.

Wandering is a very serious issue so I'm glad you are reaching out for help. You have a couple of options. The Alzheimer's Association offers Medic Alert + Safe Return (www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp). This is a necklace or bracelet with an 800 number to a national database that would contain all your mom's vital medical information as well as your contact information. Anyone finding your mom could call the 800 number and Medic Alert + Safe Return would notify you. As for keeping it on her, Super Glue could be your best friend. Get the bracelet type and glue the clasp shut and she shouldn't be able to get it opened.

Another excellent option that I would encourage you to look into is GPS technology. There are several options available and a place to start is again the Alzheimer's Association. They have a program called Comfort Zone (http://www.alz.org/comfortzone/). Comfort Zone is a web-based location management program that would monitor your mom's whereabouts 24/7 using GPS technology. She would wear a transmitter that looks like a wrist watch (glue that clasp also). You set up a pre-determined area in which she can move about and if she leaves that area (your yard, for instance) Comfort Zone will recognize she has left that area and contact you immediately...the best part is it will also use the GPS tracking technology to tell you exactly where she is. There is obviously a cost to both Medic Alert and Comfort Zone but it is very reasonable in my estimation...especially for the peace of mind it offers.

Please recognize, however, that neither of these devices will solve what will eventually be a larger problem...her safety even when she is within the house. It's not unlike the safety concerns you would face leaving a small child home alone...turning on the stove and starting a fire, letting someone into the house that she shouldn't, mistaking a cleaning chemical for something to drink, etc. The National Institute on Aging publishes a wonderful publication on home safety. It is free to download at their website (https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/home-safety-people-alzheimers-disease/introduction).

The day will come when she will need 24/7 supervision. I encourage you to start researching your options now. Are there any adult day programs in your area? That could be an interim step. Is it possible to hire someone to stay with her during the day? Some states have funding programs that will pay family members to provide that kind of care. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a good place to start exploring your options. They know your area and what types of services are available as well as what funding options exist. Later on, assisted living or even nursing home placement may become necessary. Most families hope to keep their family member at home until the end but that isn't always possible. I always advise families to start looking into long term care facilities now - even if you don't think you will need or want this level of care for a long time - as there are often long waiting lists. Having a plan for how you will ensure her safety down the road is important. Trying to sort out placements when you are in crisis is never a good plan. Best of luck to you and your mom.

Community Answers

Brenda avadian answered...

An excellent response, Kathryn Pears, MPPM Consider your options down the line. We used adult day care as well... but the time will come for other care options.

Until then I'll add two items--HOW it is presented and ALERTING your neighbors.

ONE, HOW the bracelet, necklace, or GPS watch is provided to your mom, Akaheba, may influence her behavior.

For instance, my father who lived with Alzheimer's, rarely wore any kind of jewelry--just a basic watch from time to time. But we arranged for the ladies at the Adult Day Services to present him with the Alzheimer's Association's bracelet in a nice jewelry box. He coveted it. This is not to say,on occasion he forgot and in the wee hours of the morning while wandering, tried to remove it with assorted tools he'd find. We'd gently remind him of the gift he'd received from "the ladies" so he treasured it a bit more.

Find the motivating reason for your mom and have that person/persons present one of the three choices as a gift.

TWO, alert the neighbors to call you if they see her wandering outside and also if they find the GPS watch, bracelet, or necklace.

Our neighbors called us from time to time when my father got out into the street.