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Viral Video Shows Woman With Alzheimer's Climbing Down Her Apartment Building

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A viral video of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease climbing down the side of her high-rise apartment building is serving as an important reminder about the most effective (and ineffective) ways to keep a loved one with dementia safe.

According to Chinese media outlets, on Thursday the woman climbed out the window of her 14th floor apartment in Chengdu after her family locked her in and left. Video footage shows her carrying a red bag and using metal bars on the side of the building as a sort of ladder.

Once she reached the fourth floor, residents inside the building were able to pull her inside. Firefighters were called to the scene and were about to place an inflatable mattress on the ground below her when she was rescued, the Daily Mail reported.

You can watch the video below:

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that occurs when nerve cells in the brain stop working and eventually die, causing memory loss, confusion about events, time and place, mood and behavior changes, and disorientation.

“Wandering” is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease — the Alzheimer’s Association reports that six in 10 people with dementia will wander. They might do things like trying or wanting to go home even if they’re already home, talk about fulfilling former obligations like going to work, forget how to go somewhere they’ve been before, act restless or pace.

Rachael Wonderlin, who runs the consulting business Dementia By Day, told The Mighty that families should keep in mind that locking someone in a room could be considered abuse and neglect, depending on where you live. The advice she always gives families is, “If you feel like your loved one shouldn’t be at home alone, don’t leave them home alone.”

“It sounds simplistic when put that way, but even if you implement all the technology in the world (locked doors, alarms, GPS tracking, etc.) it won’t solve the inherent problem: This person has a disease that prevents them from making safe or logical decisions,” she said.

Wonderlin recommended looking into technology as a back-up plan, but to also consider making a bigger change: either moving your loved one to a dementia care community, bringing help into the home (for example through a home care agency), or considering adult day care.

“Those three options are much, much better than resorting to leaving the person at home,” Wonderlin said.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be difficult, and you might sometimes feel alone and unsure of how to best care for them. You can find resources at dementia advocacy organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and Dementia Society of America. You can also discover insights from caregivers and people living with dementia on The Mighty. Check out these stories from the Alzheimer’s community:

Originally published: April 26, 2019
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