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How Do Care Facilities Stop Dementia Patients from Wandering About?

Dementia is not a disease in particular, but it is a general term used to describe impaired ability to remember, think or make sound decisions related to everyday life. The changes in memory, attention, and logical reasons make it difficult for one to decipher reality and function normally. But did you know that healthcare facilities that cater to the needs of patients with dementia use nifty tricks to keep their clients from wandering around?

Most people with dementia think that a black floor mat is actually a deep hole in the floor. Because of these visual perception problems, they avoid stepping on the mat. Healthcare facilities use this to keep them from wandering around or leaving the facility.

What is Dementia?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dementia is not a disease itself, but it is a term used to describe an elderly individual with an impaired ability to think, remember, decide, or function normally while doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common types of dementia.

While dementia mainly affects older adults, this is not a normal aging phase. Statistics show that there were an estimated amount of 5 million adults with dementia in 2014. Numbers are said to increase as the years go by. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Dementia

Not all elderly adults will experience dementia, and it is not part of the normal aging process. While the term dementia is general, the signs and symptoms may vary from one person to another. Individuals that may have dementia would have problems with the following:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Communication
  • Reasoning
  • Judgement & Problem Solving
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision

Some signs that may point to the case would include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Using unusual language or words to refer to familiar items
  • Forgetting the name of family members or a close friend
  • Forgetting old memories
  • Not being able to complete given tasks independently

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Story of the Black Floor Mats

Chuck Klosterman questioned the ethics behind healthcare facilities using the black floor mat trick with their patients to keep them from wandering about or even escaping.

A new technique to control the wandering of dementia patients involves placing black floor mats in front of unsafe areas, such as outside exits. Due to a fear of falling, persons with dementia will not walk on dark spaces on the floor, they tend to see them as holes. This is an alternative to antipsychotic drugs and lockdown units. Since this technique uses fear and a disability to guide behavior, but with the intent of safety, is it ethical?

Chuck Klosterman, New York Times

Klosterman answered his query by saying that the technique is ethical and is an effective alternative to safeguard the elderly in such facilities.

If a dementia patient were in a position to describe how she would want to be treated, I’d assume she would want the maximum level of independence, the highest degree of protection and the greatest potential for mental clarity. This concept comes closest to achieving those goals.

Chuck Klosterman, New York Times

(Source: The New York Times)

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