Summer is a time for vacations and spending more time outdoors, but it’s also a time to be extra vigilant if you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia.
The fact is people with dementia can become lost, often without warning, and have no idea how to get home. This can be a frightening experience for the lost person and for their families. For this reason, the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation and the Alzheimer Society of Canada have come together to launch the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program. Available nationwide, the program is designed to quickly identify those who are lost and assist in a safe return home.
“This new program is an essential resource for keeping people with dementia safe. Registering with the program is an important step family members can take in supporting people with dementia who are at risk of wandering and becoming lost,” explains our CEO, Mimi Lowi-Young. “By collaborating with Canadian MedicAlert Foundation, we’re answering a need which will become even more critical as our population ages and more Canadians develop this disease.”
MedicAlert Safely Home members select a MedicAlert ID to wear at all times. Through a unique 24/7 emergency hotline, inscribed on the ID, first responders are granted immediate access to that person’s complete medical profile, as well as emergency contact information. When a member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia is found — even if they’re unable to answer basic personal questions like where they live — MedicAlert will provide critical information and immediately notify emergency contacts.
“Anyone living with Alzheimer’s disease should have a MedicAlert membership,” says Robert Ridge, President and CEO, Canadian MedicAlert Foundation. “In addition to helpingensure that people with dementia can find their way safely home, the sophisticated MedicAlert database stores full medical information including what medications they are taking, information about allergies or conditions and a record of their medical history.”
Ridge adds that, all other reasons aside, registering for the MedicAlert Safely Home program
provides families and caregivers with invaluable peace of mind, knowing that those in their care are as safe as possible.
Julie Foley, whose husband Lowell has Alzheimer’s disease, couldn’t agree more. “There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease so safety is absolutely essential. It’s one of the first things we discussed when my husband was diagnosed. This new program is an easy and subtle support which provides both of us reassurance. Every minute counts.”
Learn more about MedicAlert® Safely Home® at www.safelyhome.ca.
The world is always beckoning for us to leave the comfort and safety of home, whether it’s to visit friends, family or see a new place. For those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, this need is no different, although it comes with challenges.
Susan Bithrey was one caregiver who travelled a lot with her husband Reg, even after he was diagnosed with dementia. Although they loved living in Thunder Bay, they had many reasons to leave: family in Alberta and Southern Ontario, a medical specialist in Toronto and post-retirement wanderlust to name a few.
“Mostly I just used common sense: watch carefully, don’t overwhelm him with too much input, and rely on the kindness of strangers if necessary,” Susan recalls.
When Reg was in the early stages of the disease, it wasn’t so difficult to manage. “I kept a bit sharper eye out for possible problems,” Susan explains. “ I always packed a list of his meds, my legal documents, and made sure to have contact numbers for relatives, doctors, etc. in case of an emergency.”
But it became more difficult when Reg’s condition deteriorated. Susan became much more cautious about travel, choosing destinations that were familiar not only to him, but to herself so that she could navigate easily if something went wrong. They visited cities where they had relatives or good friends for back up.
To keep travelling fun and incident-free, Susan offers the following advice:
- Inform the hotel concierge/front desk that your travel companion has Alzheimer’s disease and provide them with an information package with his description, a photo, names he responds to and his preferred places of interest.
- Always take note of what she is wearing.
- On long car trips, stop frequently and take a brisk stroll for some exercise.
- For airport and highway restrooms, use family washrooms whenever possible. If not, try to find one with only one exit.
- Even familiar places can look strange. Take time to reintroduce her to the environment by altering your routine as little as possible.
- Choose activities and places she might enjoy, such as an art gallery or a conservatory, which stimulate the senses but also have security staff at exits
How do you cope travelling with someone with dementia? Share your story below.
Visit our website to find more advice for travelling.
Home should be a safe place, a refuge from the world where we can simply be and relish in the memories of what was, what is and what will be. Ensuring people with dementia can continue to live safely at home is a key priority for the Alzheimer Society. A home’s many traces of the past can help preserve a sense of self.
I love going outside in the winter. I’ll take the soft embrace of a January snowfall over frigid March rains anytime. All of us need to take precautions to stay safe during winter. But for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the season presents even more challenges.