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How to keep your parent safe and prevent wandering

Wandering can be a common problem as our parents get older and perhaps have mental health challenges to cope with. Dementia is often the cause of wandering in later life which brings its own difficulties in terms of managing your parent’s safety and independence.

Whether your parent has developed a tendency to wander away from home or you’re concerned for their safety in their own home there are a variety of assistive technologies available to help them live independently for longer and keep them safe while giving you peace of mind.

What type of prevention technology do we need?

If your parent has started to wander outside or inside the house it’s a good idea to first identify the problem areas of the home in terms of exits and entrances and spots where your parent is prone to falling. By identifying these parts of the house you’ll be able to create a system that works for you and also for your parent’s carers.

Your parent’s care agency may recommend certain tools and technologies that can be installed to supplement the care your parent’s carers are providing, ensuring their safety and security in between carer visits.

It could also be a good idea to ask for your parent to be referred to an occupational therapist who can advise on the types of products to buy to help you create a functional anti-wander system to suit you and your parent.

Who should be alerted if there’s a problem?

While you may want to be the first person alerted if your parent is wandering or has fallen if you live further away this could prove problematic in terms of arranging help. Choosing a friend or relative who lives close by and is able to check on your parent should they receive an alert will help to keep them safe.

If your parent’s carer or their care agency is responsible for responding to alerts and you or a neighbour are informed after the fact it’s important to ensure that the carer responding is one of your parent’s regular carers and that they have a key or key code to enter the property without your parent’s help.

How does the technology alert us or our parent’s carers?

Most wandering care products can alert you, your parent’s carer or a nominated relative or friend in a number of different ways.

Autodialler alerts. These alerts will call directly through to a telephone number that has been pre-programmed into the system usually via a landline connection. Whether you or your parent’s carer are alerted it’s important that the programmed phone numbers are kept up-to-date to avoid the alert system failing due to a wrong number.

GSM alerts. When triggered these alerts can send a text message to multiple mobile phones or a phone call to a pre-programmed number and come with a sim card slot so can be used in locations where a landline is not available. Often these types of alert systems can be remotely controlled from your mobile phone.

Pager alerts. These sound an alarm on the pager when a sensor has been triggered and are best used for alerting carers or relatives while in your parent’s homes allowing them to respond accordingly.

Inside wandering and fall management

Day time wandering can be less of an issue than night time wandering inside the home but it’s important to realise that certain areas of your parent’s house can cause problems for them.

Narrow hallways, walkways between furniture and doorways as well as uneven floors, furniture with protruding legs and darker areas of the home can lead to falls especially if their mobility is limited or they have poor vision.

Passive Infrared Sensors (PIR). These simple movement sensors usually have two components which transmit an infrared beam between them. If your parent walks through the beak and breaks the connection their carer or relative will be alerted. These sensors can be used in different areas around the house according to where your parent frequently wanders.

Chair Occupancy Sensors. If your parent spends a lot of time in their favourite chair then an occupancy sensor can help to determine when they begin to get up out of the chair or sense when your parent is in front of the chair ready to sit down or stand up.These sensors are best for daytime use and can be placed on the chair under the cushions or on the floor in front of the chair. They’re particularly useful if your parent is at risk of falling while beginning to stand.

Bed Occupancy Sensors. These sensors are ideal for night-time use. Working in the same way as chair sensors they can be placed either under the bed sheets or on the floor in front of the bed where you parent would usually step down out of it. More advanced versions are also capable of monitoring the amount of time your parent has been out of bed and if this reaches a pre-programmed point in time an alarm is triggered so their carer or relative can check on them to make sure they haven’t fallen or wandered.

Floor Mat Sensors. These can be placed under a door mat or rug in most regions of your parent’s home to detect wandering and room exits. If you parent has dementia they may become suspicious of newly placed rugs hiding the sensors so it’s always best to disguise them as they may try to avoid them or fall over them if they’re a new addition to their home.

Outside Wandering and Front Door Safety

Whether your parent lives nearby or further afield if they have a tendency to wander it’s good to know where they are and that they’re safe. Front door safety can be very important in terms of preventing scammers and unexpected callers from taking advantage of our parents as well as avoiding an incident that could lead to them leaving their home unexpectedly.

Door Entry and Exit Keypads. These keypads allow entry and exit through a door with a pre-programmed pin. If the door is opened without the pin an alert will be sent to your parent’s carer or relative which could indicate the door has been left open or forced. Keypads are usually installed on the main entry point of a person’s home.

Bogus Caller Alarms. These act as a form of panic button near the front door which your parent can press before or after opening the door if they’re concerned about a caller. Door-to-door salesmen and unexpected or unrecognised visitors can all pose a threat to a vulnerable parent. By pressing the button your parent sends a help message to their carer or relative’s pager device after which the carer or relative can make the choice to check on them or call the police.

GSM Doorbells. These devices are a more advanced version of the bogus caller alarms. When the doorbell has been rung the device sends a phone call to a preprogramed number so that you, your parent’s carer or a relative can talk to the caller at the door from your remote location. The GSM doorbell transmits your voice through a speaker making it similar to an intercom system allowing you to ascertain their business and decide whether to allow them into your parent’s home.

Door and Window Pull Tag Sensors. These sensors are fitted to doorways or windows with a pull tag attached. If the door or window is opened the tag is pulled from the device triggering an alarm to be sent to your parent’s carer or relative alerting them to possible exit.

Using one of the sensors above in a strategic way can really help to provide safety for vulnerable people and give peace of mind for the family of someone at risk of wandering or falls.

Health and Care is a healthcare and mobility specialist with a vast range of products designed for both indoor and outdoor use to help your parent improve their mobility, health and quality of life. Visit their site to begin browsing or call them on 020 7931 8766.

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