Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mini-nursing Homes / Mini-Locked Facilities

The New York Times ran a front page article on Wednesday, May 5, 2010: More With Dementia Wander From Home. The article describes the challenges faced by families and law enforcement in finding people with dementia who have wandered off driven by whatever impulse.

According to the article 6 in 10 dementia victims will do this at least once. Many will be found. Some will die in accidents or of exposure. A while ago I quoted statistics from Maria Shriver’s e-mail to The Huffington Post (
“…There are nearly 10 million Americans providing…care to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias…And believe it or not, there are getting to be almost as many kids actually "babysitting" a grandparent with Alzheimer's at home as kids babysitting children…”

That’s millions of mini-nursing homes. Some of these need to be mini-locked-facilities. How does a teenager keep Grandma from leaving the house?

In my practice I see over and over again how reluctant medical personnel and family members are to confront this reality…deal with the ramifications. Institutional locked facilities are too expensive for most families. What else is available? One possibility are wristbands from Project Lifesaver, a non-profit, that can be used for tracking by law enforcement with radio devices.

I would like to see a basic protocol. At the first sign of mental and/or cognitive deficits the person would get tested. If there is a dementia diagnosis the individual and their network (family, friends, professionals) would meet with a trained professional to learn about future potential problems and appropriate coping strategies.

Dementia is a social disease. No, it is not contagious, but everyone is impacted---and not just the immediate family.

What about all the follks diagnosed with one or another form of dementia who are still driving?

Peggy Flynn MA
The Caregiving Zone

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