Last fall, after a routine fire drill during the day, Mom woke up in the middle of the night hearing an alarm. She got up, got dressed, and then rushed downstairs and out the front door. She was locked out of the building at around 2 a.m. She walked around the building checking all the doors until she found the kitchen door was unlocked. She went in the kitchen and waited until an employee found her. How did I find out about this? Not from the staff, but from Mom recording it in her Memory Book.

As soon as I read what Mom had written about her night-time adventure, I talked to the manager at her home. An alarm should have gone off alerting the night staff that the front door was opened. If it did go off, no one recorded it or mentioned it to the manager, which scared the heck out of me that no one said anything. What if it had been winter and minus 20? What if she had wandered down the street?

After this incident, the manager and night staff made sure to keep an eye out for Mom. Sure enough, she was like clockwork, 2 a.m. she headed for the front door, night after night. After an investigation of why she was waking up at the time, staff discovered a woman across the hall from Mom’s place had an alarm that would go off at 2 a.m. They also found a mixer in the kitchen (which was under Mom’s room) was starting up at that time. After stopping the alarm clock and mixer, Mom hasn’t had any more trips to the front door, which is a relief. Although, she does sometimes wake up, gets ready for the day, and then sits in the dining room around 1:30 a.m. thinking it is breakfast time.

I never thought Mom would wander, even though I know it is part of the disease. My Grandma once escaped her home and had walked about ten miles out of town before a friend of the family found her and convinced her he could take her home.

Because of these incidents I can appreciate even more the brilliance of the young inventor, Kenneth Shinozuka who created a device called Safe Wander. It’s a pressure-sensitive button that is attached to the bottom of the Alzheimer’s patient’s sock, and anytime pressure is applied during the night, the caretaker is alerted on his or her smartphone. Shinozuka tested this device on his grandpa and during a six-month period discovered 437 incidents of wandering!

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