Check Up On Seniors With Dementia During Extreme Heat

Sunday, August 7th 2011, 6:54 pm
By: News 9

Deanne Stein,

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Anybody can succumb to the heat, but for the elderly it can become dangerous, especially if they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 60 percent of people who suffer from dementia will wander off and get lost at least once. Of those who wander, 70 percent will wander many times. Thirty-three percent will die if not found within 24 hours. And that number increases in extreme temperatures.

"In extreme cold or heat, these patients can succumb to that in a matter of hours or minutes depending on their body weight and health," said Debi Sims, a nurse and Director of Resident Services at Cypress Springs Alzheimer's and Memory Support Residence.

One woman from Oklahoma City has taken precautions to make sure her husband is safe from wandering, by placing him at Cypress Springs.

"The main exits to the house always had to be locked, period," said Jan, who wanted to withhold her last name. "I was just sitting on a powder keg just waiting for something to happen. I had to lock down the house and keep those keys on my body."

Jan said through all her best efforts, though, she felt her husband's wandering would get the best of him or an innocent bystander. She recalls one incident where her husband wouldn't respond to her, so she had to call police to help her.

"I think if a policeman didn't pull him away from that stoplight, he would have walked into four lanes of traffic," Jan said.

Sims says wandering is common in patients with dementia. She said if you have a loved one at home who tends to wander, be sure to use deadbolts out of their eye line, put dark colored mats at the doorways and talk to your neighbors so they can help watch out for them too. As far as the public goes, if you see someone who appears disoriented or lost, call 911.