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Deterring wandering

Island Health is collaborating with the University of Victoria's CanAssist program and Centre on Aging.

Island Health is collaborating with the University of Victoria's CanAssist program and Centre on Aging on a project aimed at improving safety and supporting independence for Home and Community Care clients.

Innovative technology has already helped an Islander in his 80s remain living at home despite his occasional inclination to wander at night due to dementia. The effectiveness of the Wandering Deterrent System is being evaluated for possible use by other clients with similar needs.

"This is an innovative use of technology to support independence and safety for people living with dementia," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "It supports our mandate to provide accessible and responsive care focused on the needs of patients."

"We have a lot of people with dementia on the Island and wandering is a problem for a lot of them. Wandering is a behavior that puts the client at risk of harm and causes caregiver stress," said Cheryl Beach, project director of community care initiatives at Island Health.

Approximately 40 per cent of Island Health's Home and Community Care clients have a diagnosis of dementia. The proportion is among the highest in Canada.

"We are looking for ways to better support families and caregivers," Beach said.

The Wandering Deterrent System is designed so that if someone is confused about the time and prepares to go out in the middle of the night, a motion detector is triggered as the client approaches the front door. This signals a computer tablet mounted by the door to flash the message: "Stop. It's night time. Go back to bed!" Messages can be customized to make the communication more effective.

The tablet also has the ability to play a video of the client's family member providing the client re-direction such as "Hi, Dad. It's 11 o'clock at night. All your family and friends are asleep. Please go back to bed."

The video system has not been implemented yet, but Island Health is looking for new clients to trial this with.

If the client did leave the home, there was the additional safeguard of an alert sent to his son who lived nearby.

The Wandering Deterrent System hopess to provide a cost-effective option to having a care worker stay overnight in the home or having the client move to a care facility.

One of the adaptations available on the tablet is to use a 24-hour or 12-hour clock whichever is most relevant to the client.

Beach said the system proved to be effective both for the Central Island client and his family members who were uncomfortable with the risk of him being alone at night.

"It's really exciting. We're using multi-faceted technology including innovation and off-the-shelf products to support our clients to stay at home," Beach said. "The goal is to provide our clients with the choice to remain in their homes as safe as possible for as long as possible."