Wandering Support During Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month
When providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia you will often encounter new and surprising behaviors; one of the more troubling behaviors can be wandering. Individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s will often show signs of wandering even in the early stages of the disease. Because dementia can affect the parts of the brain that control visual comprehension, navigation, and orientation, individuals can wander and feel lost both outside and inside their own home.
People with dementia may wander for several reasons:
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed in new environments
- Searching for someone that they knew in the past or that they feel they need to be with
- Needing to attend basic needs, such as finding a restroom or something to eat
- Engaging in a former routine, such as going to a job or going to the store
While wandering, especially outside of the home, can be scary for caregivers, there are steps you can take to minimize the danger. Creating a structured daily plan that includes physical activities and opportunities to walk outside can help to reduce anxiety and restlessness. You can keep items such as keys, jackets, pocketbooks, and other items that may trigger someone’s instinct to leave out of sight. If the individual is still driving you can buy a GPS for their car that can assist if they get lost.
You can also modify the home:
- Install a keyed deadbolt above or below their eyesight (but be sure to never lock someone inside of the house alone).
- Place a door chime or a pressure sensitive floor mat near exterior doors that will alert you when a door is opened.
- Fence off your yard with a locked gate to provide a safe outdoor space for someone to wander.
You can reach out to the Aging Transitions team if you would like personalized recommendations from our Occupational Therapist.
In the event that someone does get lost there are things you can do now to help them return home safely:
- Identification: Make sure the person has an updated ID card with them, purchase a wearable tracker that can be worn or put inside an object they typically carry with them (like a purse), or make sure they wear a medical bracelet with their name, address, and your phone number.
- Search and Rescue: Keep a recent photograph and a piece of unwashed clothing in a bag for K-9 search dogs.
- The Sheriff’s Office operates a Life Track program where adults with cognitive impairment wear a bracelet or anklet containing a transmitter that assists the Sheriff’s Office in search and rescue efforts.
- Introduce: Let neighbors and nearby friends know that the person has dementia and tends to wander; ask them to call you if they see the individual walking by him or herself.
- Plan: Make a list of places the person is likely to go such as old homes, restaurants, or places of worship
If someone does get lost it is better to call 911 sooner rather than later and let the dispatcher know that the individual has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Caregiving can be stressful and difficult, and we thank you for all that you are doing to keep your loved ones safe and cared for throughout their journey.
This month's article was written by Walter Moczygemba, one of two social work practicum students working with OCDoA's Aging Transitions team this summer. Walter is a rising third year student with UNC's MSW program.
Did you know that you can get cognitive assessments right in our senior centers? Several of our Aging Transitions Team are certified to administer the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). While this is not the same as a medical diagnosis, it can provide a baseline of cognition, as well as help determine your strengths and challenges. Contact the Aging Helpline to schedule an appointment: 919-968-2087.
Brief Counseling Services
Our team of social workers are available to work with older adults and caregivers for brief counseling services, free of charge. We can work with you on issues including anxiety, depression, caregiver stress and loneliness.
Contact the Aging Helpline for more information: 919-968-2087.
Activity Engagement Coaching
It can be challenging to find ways to keep loved ones with dementia engaged throughout the day. For caregivers connected to our various dementia support programs, we are now offering one-on-one consultations where we can brainstorm together with you to identify enjoyable activities that are:
If interested, please contact Lisa Meinert (919-245-4251), certified Dementia Care Partner and Activity Professional.
Dementia Friendly Orange County
Our partner organizations aim to be aware and accommodating of the needs of patrons with dementia and their caregivers.
To date, 110 local organizations and over 1,300 employees have participated in our training. https://dforangecounty.org/certified-businesses/
Founding sponsors of Dementia Friendly Orange County include the Orange County Department on Aging, the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, and Acorn of Chapel Hill.
Have you hired a fair, helpful, and trustworthy handyperson? We are compiling a list of individuals who assist with home repair work in our community. If you had a positive experience with a particular person or company and would recommend them to a neighbor, please share!
Complete our online recommendation form or call the Aging Helpline (919-968-2087) to submit your recommendation.
In Need of Incontinence Supplies?
Thanks to generous donations, the Department on Aging has a supply of incontinence supplies including: bed pads, pull up briefs, adult diapers, wipes, and adult booster pads. If you are in need of any of these items, we may be able to provide you with up to one pack per month (depending on availability of the items requested). Contact the Aging Helpline (919-968-2087 or Agingtransitions@Orangecountync.gov) to request supplies.
Senior Centers are Fully Open!
Both senior centers are fully open to all activities and pre-pandemic operations. In addition, we will continue to offer programs in a hybrid (in-person/virtual) format.
Seymour Center adds Saturday and Evening Hours
Effective April 2, the Seymour Center expanded their hours of operations to include:
- Saturdays, 8 am – 5 pm,
- Monday – Thursday, 8 am - 9 pm
If you are interested in attending a program feel free to stop by or call the Center at 919-968-2070 or if you are interested in offering a program during these times, please contact Seymour Center Programs and Operation Manager, Cydnee Sims, at 919-245-2050.
For a complete listing of the Passmore Center & Seymour Center hours, click here.
For more information please see:
- Activity Calendar: Download a copy of our monthly Activity Calendar including all of our videos, live classes, and online programs.
- Endless Possibilities Activity Guide: View the latest Endless Possibilities (formerly Senior Times) for all of our programs, services, and resources.
- Information & Services: Information, individual services, and one-on-one appointments are available M-F, 8 am - 5 pm. For an appointment, please contact the Aging Transitions Services Helpline at 919-968-2087.
- Lunch Program: We will offer a dual program lunch with meals being served curb-side or indoor dining. Registration is required to participate in the lunch program. Email Isabel Jackson or call 919-245-4256 for more information or to register for our Lunch Program.
- Register Online: Register for classes online. Choose display option "Detail" and search by title, activity code and more to find and register for your class or event.
For regular updates about senior center programming, please subscribe to the biweekly Endless Possibilities e-newsletter.
Caregiver Education Series: Burning the Candle at Both Ends - Sandwich Generation Caregiving
Join Rich Gwaltney of Transitions LifeCare for this informative presentation. If you have joined the more than 11 million Americans caring for an adult family member while also caring for children at home, this presentation will increase your awareness of resources and proven strategies to better prepare a younger generation of caregivers. Contact Kendall (919-245-4278) for more information and registration, or register for the virtual option here.
- Monday, June 6; 1pm at the Seymour Center or virtually via Zoom
Care Partner Collaborative
Now In Person! For caregivers and those they care for - a space to be in community, where many hands make light work. A weekly gathering that offers opportunities for connection and active engagement in ways that work for all. Let’s do this together! Registration required. Please contact Lisa Meinert at email@example.com or 919-245-4251 to discuss eligibility.
- Wednesdays, 1-3pm at the Seymour Center
Dementia - Let's Talk About It
Join OCDoA’s dementia care specialists for a conversation around topics related to dementia education, living with cognitive change, and being a dementia caregiver. We will provide 15-30 minutes of education at the start of the hour, and the remaining time will be spent in conversation, Q&A, and resource-sharing around the day’s topic. Contact the Aging Helpline (919-968-2087) for more information and registration.
- Tuesday, June 7 at 10:15am: Communication During a Social Visit
- Tuesday, June 21 at 10:15am: Going on a Social Outing
Join us for a free, fun, low stress social engagement opportunity for people living with dementia and their care partners. Contact Kendall Kopchick (919-245-4278 or Kkopchick@orangecountync.gov) for more information or to register.
- Memory Café on the Move
- Friday, June 10, 1pm at Frank Gallery
- Register by Tuesday, June 7 at 5pm
- Hillsborough Memory Café
- Tuesday June 7, 2:00pm at Cup-A-Joe
- Registration encouraged but not required
- Chapel Hill Memory Café
- Monday June 13, 11am at Bruegger’s Bagels
- Registration encouraged but not required
Memory Screening Day
June is Alzheimer's and Brain Health Awareness Month. Memory screenings are an important part of a good health and wellness routine for people of all ages. Screenings take just a few minutes, consist of a series of questions, and are conducted one-on-one with a certified screener. FREE.
- Appointments available Thursday, June 9 at the Seymour and Passmore Centers
- Please email or call (919-968-2087) by Tuesday, June 7 to make your appointment.
Support groups are a space to meet with other caregivers to share experiences, learn new skills, and get answers to questions about dementia and other long-term disabilities. We have resumed in-person meetings and have added a new Zoom only group.
TimeSlips Engagement Party - You’re Invited!
- Chapel Hill Support Group
- Contact Kendall Kopchick to join - firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-245-4278.
- Friday, June 10 at 10:30am at Seymour
- Friday, June 24 at 10:30am at Seymour
- Hillsborough Support Group
- Contact Keisha Andrew to join - email@example.com or 919-245-2022.
- Thursday, June 9 at 1pm at Passmore
- Thursday, June 23 at 1pm at Passmore
- Zoom Only Support Group
- Contact Kim Lamon-Loperfido to join - firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-245-4253.
- Tuesday, June 7 at 12:30pm via Zoom
- Tuesday, June 21 at 12:30pm at via Zoom
Designed for family caregivers and friends (but fun for anyone), our TimeSlips Engagement Party is an informal gathering where guests can learn simple techniques to improve communication and creatively engage those living with memory loss. Learn how to create and share in meaningful moments of connection and imagination, where there is no right or wrong answer. FREE
Chapel Hill Parkinson's Support Group
- Tuesday, June 21, 4:00pm at the Seymour Center
- Register by Tuesday, June 14 (registration code 333175-01)
This month's support group will be a “SPLIT” group where people with PD and carepartners will attend separate meetings for an open discussion. Available via Zoom - contact Maggie Ivanic
for more information and to RSVP.
Chapel Hill PSP & CBD Support Group
- Carepartners Group: Tuesday, June 7 at 12:30pm
- People with Parkinson's Group: Tuesday, June 7 at 2:30pm
Support group for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Corticobasal Degeneration. This month’s topic is: The Benefits of Occupational Therapy with Eden Foote, MOT, OTR/L. Available via Zoom - contact Maggie Ivancic
for more information and to RSVP
- Wednesday, June 8 at 1:30pm
For more information, resources, and services, please reach out to our team through the Aging Information & Referral Helpline: