What should we do about our neighbor with Alzheimers who wanders?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 19, 2016
Louisetomeo asked...

My next door neighbor has Alzheimers and now wanders around the neighborhood knocking on peoples doors, including mine. This is becoming a menance. What should I do? Her son lives with her but he is not home during the day.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

This is indeed a delicate situation that the son is either not aware of or not yet ready to accept (in denial). His father's wandering also presents a safety issue and a potential reportable abuse issue"”that of neglect.

The best approach is to initially approach your neighbor.

His father may be disoriented and trying to find "home." He doesn't recognize his current home and is seeking the "home" of his earlier years as a young adult or as a child where he felt comforted.

If you have already discussed his wandering with your neighbors, see if one would be willing to accompany you when you approach the son. Ask the other neighbors who can't or won't visit with you to at least write notes of their experience with this man knocking on their doors and how they feel about it. You can then present copies of their experiences to your neighbor's son.

If the son is receptive suggest that he explore several care options for his father during the day such as adult day care and even in-home companion care.

If all else fails, call Adult Protective Services and report the incident(s). I would suggest this as a last resort. Even though this will get the job done, it will cause a rift among neighbors.

On a personal note, my father was a wanderer. When my husband and I moved him into our home after his dementia diagnosis, we visited each of our neighbors in our Cul-de-sac and explained the situation and showed them pictures. We asked them to call us immediately when my father was seen on the street. We locked our home but my physically fit and mechanically inclined father was able to escape without detection. On one occasion he scaled a six-foot fence! One neighbor's calls ensured my father's life was not endangered prematurely. Still, one of us was always home with him or we took him to adult day care.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Forgive me for adding my two cents, Louise,but I just couldn't help myself. I do hope you never become that "door-knocker" somewhere down the road. Would never wish that on anyone. The term "it takes a village to raise a child" holds true for seniors as well. It takes a village to care for them as well. What goes around, comes around. Show a little compassion towards your neighbor during this incredibly difficult and challenging time. Shutting the door doesn't help. Don't burn your bridges - you'll never know when you'll have to start looking for sticks to rebuild. May be too late!