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TAKING ACTION: Families impacted by Alzheimer’s, dementia should prepare for wandering beforehand

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - One in six people with dementia or Alzheimer's will wander at least once during his or her lifetime. It's important to put safe practices in place before something scary happens.

"One of the most scary things about wandering when you have Alzheimer's and dementia is that you never know when it's going to begin," said Brandi Medina with the Alzheimer's Association.

It's important to put a plan in place to prevent your loved one from wandering without warning.

"You can get childproof knobs to go on the door, makes it a little more difficult, bells on the doors so you realize when the doors open," Medina said. "You can also camouflage the door knob to match the color of the door."

As caregivers, warn your neighbors about your family member's or friend's condition.

"Whether you know them or not, it's time to meet them," Medina said. "Let them know what the situation is, give them your contact information, let them know what your loved one looks like."

The topic of driving presents a difficult, but crucial conversation for families impacted by Alzheimer's or dementia.

"By getting a driver's assessment, then the family and the assessor can let the loved one know, okay at this point, you're still okay to drive, or you're still okay to drive just in these local areas," Medina explained.

But, if it's no longer safe for the patient to drive, you'll need to make a new action plan.

"Hiding their keys," Medina said while naming ways to keep your loved one safe. "Another option could be giving them different keys that look like their keys but don't work on their car."

The Alzheimer's Association also makes special jewelry available to patients.

"We also have a program called Medic Alert Safe Return," Medina said. "It's either a bracelet or a necklace that on the back it has a phone number and it says, 'if this person is found please contact this number.'"

Perhaps your family is affected by Alzheimer's and you're looking for more information. The Alzheimer's Association has some events on the horizon. The 2017 Athens Caregiver Seminar is on Thursday, May 18 from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Center for Lifelong Learning at Athens State University.

"The Longest Day" is on June 21. During this time, families are encouraged to work together as a team to raise awareness of Alzheimer's. For more information, call the Alzheimer's Association at 1(800) 272-3900.