medical IDs for Alzheimer's

Medical IDs for Alzheimer’s

for general dementia see this article

The confidence to live with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and incurable neurological disease that affects memory, thinking and behavior. According to our long-time partner, , there are currently more than six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and the number is rapidly growing. 

A staggering statistic is that 6 out of 10 people with dementia will wander from safety. When someone with dementia wanders, they’re often unable to tell others where they live or how to contact their caregiver. If they aren’t located within a few hours, the odds of injury or death increase dramatically. That’s why MedicAlert partnered with Alzheimer’s Association to provide services that help improve outcomes in a wandering incident.

We are specialists in wandering safety. When a MedicAlert member is reported missing, MedicAlert creates and distributes a bulletin to local hospitals and law enforcement, and coordinates with the family to facilitate their loved one’s safe return home. When your loved one wanders and can’t communicate, MedicAlert can be their voice.

Medical IDs for Alzheimer’s are a way to empower your loved one and ensure they are safely returned home if they ever have a wandering incident.

How MedicAlert protects those with Alzheimer’s

Living with Alzheimer’s can be stressful. One thing you shouldn’t worry about is what could happen in an emergency. MedicAlert’s protection plans offer benefits that extend beyond the medical ID for Alzheimer’s, providing safety and peace of mind for people living with Alzheimer’s, their families and caregivers.

In 2021, 500 people who wandered from a safe environment were located thanks to MedicAlert’s IDs and the Safe & Found program.

Wandering Support

If your loved one wanders, we’re here 24/7 to help ensure a safe return home.

Emergency Contact Notification

In an emergency, we connect families so that no one is alone in a crisis.

24/7 Emergency Response

Our team provides first responders the information they need to provide fast, accurate care.

Digital Health Profile

All your vital information, all in one place for you and your caregiver.

And find the protection plan that’s right for you.

What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Dementia is a general term for conditions that have a group of symptoms including memory loss, cognitive decline, and impaired communication. Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia, and the most common type – accounting for 60-80% of cases. Alzheimer’s affects memory, language and thought, and gets worse with time. Neither Alzheimer’s nor dementia are part of the normal aging process.

According to the National Institute on Aging, many more people under age 65 also have the disease. Unless a cure or preventative measures can be found, current trends suggest the number of people with Alzheimer’s will increase because advancing age is the most important known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

How does Alzheimer’s disease progress?

Alzheimer’s progression is classified into three states: early, moderate, and severe. People with Alzheimer’s typically experience symptoms in their mid-60’s, but early-onset cases can begin as early as the 30’s. Early Alzheimer’s symptoms can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Losing or misplacing things
  • Difficulty thinking or understanding
  • Wandering or getting lost
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Repeating questions

As Alzheimer’s progresses, these symptoms worsen and increasingly interfere with daily life, ultimately making it difficult for people with the condition to carry on conversations or respond to their environment.

For someone who is at risk of wandering, MedicAlert is a real lifeline for them and their families.

Monica Moreno, Senior Director of Care and Support, Alzheimer’s Association

What causes Alzheimer’s?

The cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, but scientists believe that it develops from a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environment.

Alzheimer’s causes brain cells to die and breaks down connections between brain cells. The telltale sign of Alzheimer’s is abnormal protein deposits in the brain called plaques and tangles. However, these can only be seen posthumously in an autopsy of the brain. Still, specialists can diagnose Alzheimer’s with great accuracy by assessing other symptoms.

Increasing age is the largest Alzheimer’s risk factor. Most individuals living with the disease are over age 60, although there are a growing number of people who experience early onset Alzheimer’s.

Common challenges for those living with Alzheimer’s disease

Living with Alzheimer’s is never easy. Those dealing with even earlier symptoms can become overwhelmed, feel out of place, become depressed, or get frustrated dealing with memory loss and life not working the way it once did. 

Some of the most common challenges those living with Alzheimer’s tend to face are:

  • Memory loss
  • Wandering
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of energy and spontaneity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty with communication and remembering names
  • Mood swings
  • Delay in reaction times
These challenges to daily life are some of the reasons medical IDs for Alzheimer’s help so much in providing safety and peace of mind for those living with this condition, as well as for their loved ones.

How MedicAlert protects your loved one if they have a wandering incident

In 2021, 500 people who wandered from a safe environment were located thanks to MedicAlert’s IDs and the Safe & Found program. Along with strategies to stop wandering, finding a high-quality and widely recognized medical ID such as one of the many choices available through MedicAlert offers peace of mind. In addition to offering the original medical ID to members with Alzheimer’s, MedicAlert has optional Protection Plans. As part of a MedicAlert Protection Plan, the Safe & Found Program is available 24/7 to assist with wandering emergencies. In the event a person with dementia should wander, families and caregivers can activate the support provided by this program by calling and reporting the person missing. MedicAlert’s team will then:
  • Create and distribute missing person flyers to local authorities
  • Relay critical medical and identifying information to EMS, police, and local medical facilities so they know to watch for the individual
  • Notify the person’s emergency contacts immediately when they are found

What to engrave on medical IDs for Alzheimer’s:

  • Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory impaired
  • Name of person wearing ID
  • Who to contact if wandering
  • Any other significant medical conditions or medications

Sample engraving. Consult our team if you need help engraving your medical ID for Alzheimer’s.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a labor of love. It can also be a source of stress when you don’t know what to expect from day to day. One worry that is ever present for many Alzheimer’s caregivers is the fear that their loved one will wander.

Although no two individuals with Alzheimer’s face the same challenges, 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander from safety at some point. They may wander for many reasons, such as stress, agitation, the desire to look for something, or simply to take a walk or find a bathroom.

While wandering can be safe in a controlled setting, it puts those with Alzheimer’s at risk of becoming lost, confused, or even physically injured by harsh weather, dangerous terrain, or traffic. When they do reach a safe location, those who wander may be unable to communicate their name or
address.

To lessen the risk of unsafe wandering, caregivers can take preventative measures such as putting in deadbolt locks that are out of the line of sight, installing warning bells, or removing access to car keys. It’s also important to identify the time of day when your loved one is most likely to wander. For many with Alzheimer’s, it’s around dusk or during the “sundowning” period.

Most importantly – make sure your loved one is wearing a MedicAlert medical ID for Alzheimer’s and has an active protection plan so that wandering support services can be activated if necessary. Every year, MedicAlert fields thousands of wandering calls and works with law enforcement and families to help speed a safe return home.

Most appropriate medical IDs for Alzheimer's and layering protection

For those with Alzheimer’s it is best practice to apply a swiss cheese approach with medical IDs, meaning the more layers of protection, the better. For example, you might pair a bracelet for Alzheimer’s with a bright ID tag and an ID sticker on the person’s mobility device. Bright colors can be especially useful for helping others identify a less traditional medical ID tag.

While many folks with Alzheimer’s are fine with wearing a medical ID bracelet, jewelry is not for everyone. Some elderly adults with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive challenges have a problem with an ever-present bracelet. Though for those who tolerate a bracelet, unremovable medical IDs for Alzheimer’s can be a good way to make sure the ID is not removed, during a wandering incident for example.

Non-removable IDs for Alzheimer’s have intentionally difficult-to-open clasps that require 2 hands to open, such as recommended by Alzheimer’s organizations. To make the bracelet more difficult to remove, it can be placed on the person’s writing hand.

A common question is Does my loved one need a medical ID if they have a tracking device? Yes, the more layers of identification, the better. Additionally, pairing IDs and tracking devices with a MedicAlert Protection Plan that includes Wandering Support also offers another layer of protection in incidents where wandering occurs.

Beyond bracelets, there’s a world of other options for medical ID. The list of options for medical IDs for Alzheimer’s continues to expand as technology advances. Whereas traditional IDs are wearable jewelry, such as bracelets and necklaces, there are clever alternatives such as Smart ID shoe tags, stickers and more.

Here are some alternative Medical IDs for Alzheimer’s:

Smart IDs bring medical IDs into the digital age. MedicAlert’s Smart IDs are available as either Smart Medical ID Cards or MedicAlert ICE Tags. Both options use proven QR code technology for fast, easy access to your full health profile. Scanning the unique QR code on either type of Smart ID with a smartphone camera opens up critical information, including medical conditions, allergies, medications, vaccinations, and more. Since the QR code stores your data, you can fit more on one tag or ID, which can help with choosing a less obtrusive Smart ID or tag. Also, with Smart IDs your data can be updated without purchasing a new physical medical ID.

MedicAlert’s Smart Medical ID Card is credit card-sized and easily carried with you in a wallet or pocket. MedicAlert ICE Tags come in a set of four durable vinyl stickers that adhere securely to any hard surface – think cellphone cases, mobility aids – typical objects that travel with you. Each set of four tags has a unique QR code for one person, so they can be attached to multiple objects. Additional users would need their own individual set of sticker tags.

The portability and scope of personal medical information they provide make Smart IDs a great alternative to traditional jewelry and wearable IDs, not just in emergency situations, but also for doctor visits, home healthcare providers, or for access by other caregivers. Because they are digitally linked to your MedicAlert full profile, your information is automatically updated with any changes to your profile. 

Apple Watches have become popular among all age groups. They are such an easily-accessible resource for all kinds of information, MedicAlert developed an ID specifically for Apple Watches. Although they are considered wearable, these attachable tags slide onto the silicone band of an Apple Watch, so they don’t require the addition of an entirely new piece of jewelry. The engravable tags are rust-proof, water-proof and made of stainless steel. They are available in multiple colors and several size options for compatibility with different sizes of Apple Watches.
Medical ID necklaces can range from utilitarian to fashion-forward, with several style options for children, women, and men. Like bracelets, necklaces can be made from a number of different materials or combinations of materials, such as stainless steel, sterling silver, gold, or platinum. MedicAlert necklaces come in a variety of chain and emblem styles, and also offer different color options for the engraving.

These types of medical IDs for Alzheimer’s can be perfect for individuals for whom any wearable ID is not a good option, such as seniors with strength limitations or cognitive issues. MedicAlert Shoe Tags are engravable and available in two different designs for easy and secure attachment to lace-up and other types of shoes. 

If digital tech is too high-tech for the user, MedicAlert Fillable Wallet Cards are the manual alternative. Personal medical information and MedicAlert ID numbers are written by the owner or caregiver into the foldable card and must be physically updated when information changes. Like Smart ID cards, Fillable Wallet Cards are credit card-sized for portability, but unlike Smart IDs, the information is not digitally linked to a health profile.

MedicAlert Foundation and Alzheimer’s Association are long term collaborators in addressing the wandering crisis.

How to prevent wandering

To help reduce the risk of wandering the following can be helpful tips (though don’t ensure your loved one still may not wander): 
 
  • Provide meaningful activities throughout the day following a structured schedule, as well as include the person in regular household activities like folding laundry or preparing a meal.
  • Make sure all basic needs are met, including toileting, hydration and nutrition. Consider reducing liquids up to two hours before bedtime so the person will need to use the bathroom less during the night.
  • Identify the time of day the person is most likely to wander and plan things to do during that time — exercise may especially help reduce restlessness and anxiety.
  • If the person is still safely able to drive, consider using a GPS device to help if they get lost. If the person doesn’t drive, it’s still a good idea to hide keys in case they forget they no longer safely drive.
  • Avoid busy places that are loud or confusing and can cause disorientation, such as shopping malls.
  • Assess the person’s response to new surroundings. Do not leave someone with Alzheimer’s unsupervised if new surroundings may cause confusion, disorientation or agitation.
  • Use night lights throughout the home.
  • Place deadbolts out of the line of sight, either high or low, on exterior doors. (never lock a person in at home, and never leave a person living with Alzheimer’s unsupervised in new or changed surroundings)
  • Install motion alarms, pressure mats, or use a monitoring device that signals when a door is opened.
  • Put a fence or hedge around the yard, patio or other outside common areas.
  • Use safety gates or brightly colored netting to prevent access to stairs or the outdoors.
  • Monitor noise levels to help reduce excessive stimulation.
  • Create indoor and outdoor common areas that can be safely explored.
  • Label all doors with signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room.
  • Store items that may trigger a person’s instinct to leave, such as coats, hats, pocketbooks, keys and wallets.
  • Do not leave the person alone in a car.

For individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer’s, the following strategies may also help reduce the risk of wandering or getting lost: 

  • Check in with each other at a set time each day.
  • Review scheduled activities for the day together.
  • Identify a companion for the person to help if caregivers aren’t nearby to offer support.
  • If getting lost or driving safely becomes a concern consider alternative transportation options.

Support and resources for Alzheimer’s caregivers

Navigating the challenge of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming. At times, caregivers may feel as though they need support, but aren’t sure where to start. The Alzheimer’s Association, our dedicated partner, understands these concerns and offers support and a variety of resources to guide the caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s. MedicAlert is proud to  to help protect those living with dementia, and provide peace of mind for their families.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s is available for round-the-clock clinical, emotional, and financial support from master-level clinicians. The helpline offers complete confidentiality, bilingual staff members, and translation services in more than 200 languages.

The Alzheimer’s Association also has a  that offers resources about Alzheimer’s caregiving, such as:

  • – an online social networking community for anyone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. provides a safe place for people to connect with others facing the disease and develop mutual support systems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • – this tool helps caregivers create a personalized action plan addressing concerns such as safety, working with health care providers, financial planning, and effectively handling dementia symptoms and behaviors.
  • – a comprehensive database that makes it easy to search, find, and access local Alzheimer’s resources, programs and services.
If you are looking for in-person support for yourself and your loved one, The Alzheimer’s Association also offers  . These regularly scheduled gatherings are led by peers or individuals with professional training, and coordinated through local chapters across the country. Groups are offered for caregivers, family and friends, and those in the early stage of Alzheimer’s.
DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.