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High-Tech Tools Help Seniors Stay Safe

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FAYETTEVILLE — As many as seven out of ten people withAlzheimer's Diseasemay wander and become lost during the course of their illness. Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities now have technology to prevent those patients from wandering into harm's way.

While the techniques are no guarantee, they do reduce the risks and anxiety tremendously.

Wilton McLamb, 76, loves to wander, but sometimes the Alzheimer's patient wanders into danger.

He has walked out the doors of his nursing home before, but now as he opens the door, a wrist bracelet he wears sets off an alarm to warn the staff. The bracelet brings McLamb's wife peace of mind.

"It just makes me feel good to know that when he goes through one of those doors, someone will know it," Maytha McLamb says.

Unfamiliar places, medications and lack of activity are things that can can cause an Alzheimer's sufferer to wander.

More and more facilities are taking preventive measures. When patients at one facility push an exit door, the alarm sounds for 15 seconds before it opens.

Some doors don't have any alarms on them because they lead to a gated terrace. The terrace gives patients the freedom to wander, but in a secured environment.

The gate blends into the landscaping and the open air allows patients to continue to feel as if they are part of the community.

Administrators at The Carolina Inn say it is important for seniors to feel free. They need "to maintain their dignity, so you don't have someone, staff or others, saying 'You can't go outside,' or 'No' to this," Leigh White says. "They feel they still have the dignity they worked for and respect they deserve as seniors."

If your loved one has Alzheimer's and is still living at home with you, there are steps you can take.
  • Make your home secure by using child-proof doorknobs and by placing locks out of the normal line of vision.
  • Inform your neighbors of your loved one's condition.
  • Become familiar with possible problem areas around your home, like wooded areas and lakes.
  • Enroll the individual in the Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return Program.For more information, contact your local chapter of theAlzheimer's Association.
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    Melissa Buscher, Reporter
    Michael Joyner, Photographer
    Julie Moos, Web Editor

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