Forrest General Nurse Reunites Patient with Family During Silver Alert
Amber Chancelor, PhD, RN, CHPN ®, had enjoyed a beautiful Saturday evening shopping and running errands when she stepped into At Home in Hattiesburg. Chancelor made casual small talk with the associate as she paid for her items, when the associate sighed and commented that she was concerned about one of the other customers in the store. After the clerk described him, Chancelor recognized the elderly gentleman she had spoken to when she entered the store.
Chancelor said, “About that time, he came and sat down behind us. I thought the best thing to do would be to just engage in conversation with him and see if something was going on.”
After asking a few questions, Chancelor realized the man was confused and began to suspect he might suffer from dementia. Fortunately, the man had a cell phone, and Chancelor was able to call his wife.
“I cannot describe the amount of relief I heard in her voice. She said they had been looking for him all day. They had put out pictures and a Silver Alert trying to find him. I asked the store employees to call the mall security, and they came along with the Hattiesburg Police Department. To make a long story short, someone from his family came to pick him up, and he’s safe at home with his family on the Coast,” said Chancelor.
As a nurse and with her current position as director of Palliative Care and Support Services at Forrest General Hospital, Chancelor has experience speaking with individuals with illnesses such as dementia. She says her awareness and persistence helped her get the answers she needed.
“He seemed like he needed some help, and I felt very safe about helping him. With the store closing, I definitely didn’t want him out on his own if something wasn’t right. Obviously, the store associates picked up that something wasn’t exactly right, but I felt they didn’t know how to handle the situation. He was very sure that he knew where he was and that he didn’t need any help. Maybe it was some of my nursing background that picked up on the fact that he had some confusion. I just had to keep pressing on even though he was telling me all the right things to make me leave him alone,” Chancelor said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six out of ten people with dementia are prone to wandering, and this may happen at any stage. While it is common for people with dementia to wander and become disoriented and lost, it is also very dangerous.
“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be difficult for caregivers, and patients often wander regardless of how vigilantly their family members look after them. It is important to have strategies in place to prevent wandering and an action plan of what to do if it happens. There are many resources available to help including support groups where you can learn from other caregivers or your physician, who can help you formulate a plan,” said Ronald L. Schwartz, MD, CPI, director of Memory Center at Hattiesburg Clinic.
According to Dr. Schwartz, here are a few tips to help with a loved one who wanders:
- Keep an updated picture of your loved one in case a Silver Alert is needed
- Get an Alzheimer’s disease medical alert bracelet for them to wear at all times.
- Install alarms and locks on exterior doors. There are door stopper alarms that will prevent the door from opening and sound an alarm.
- Purchase a GPS/tracking watch or Tile. There are several options originally designed for tracking kids or automobiles.
- Avoid caffeine or other stimulants in the late afternoon or evening.
- Encourage daytime activity/exercise in order to improve sleep and restfulness at night.
- Discuss the issue with your physician as there may be medications which will help with this behavior.