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New guidelines to help people with dementia stay safe if they get lost

Elderly lonely woman with Alzheimer

University of Alberta researchers have developed a new guideline to help people with dementia stay safe if they get lost, based partly on the experiences of those who are living with the condition.

“By including people with dementia, it tells them they can be active agents in their own care and they can keep themselves safe,” said lead author Noelannah Neubauer, an occupational therapy student in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

“The guideline opens up the idea that people with dementia can go for a walk as long as they have a strategy in place. It gives them some autonomy.”

The recommendations were developed to help fill in a big public information gap, she said.

“As researchers, we were getting a lot of questions from Alzheimer’s societies on how to keep people with dementia safe while they were living at home; they had no resources to refer them to.”

To find out what existed, Neubauer did a study of available literature that revealed a confusing tangle of more than 180 high- and low-tech solutions on how to keep people with dementia safe, ranging from home alarm systems to ID tags.

The researchers’ new guideline provides several measures, based on the risk levels of the people with dementia, for them to stay safe if they wander while living on their own—and many of them do live alone for various reasons, she noted.

“Many become divorced, lose friends, are estranged from families or don’t want to be a burden for their children, so don’t involve them.”

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