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Causes & Solutions to Prevent Dementia Wandering

Did you know?

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 60% of individuals with AD will wander away and become lost at some point in time. (Alzheimer's Association, 2007).

As the disease progresses, people with dementia may have difficulty remembering how to get to a certain place or where they just came from. Such forgetfulness can become more serious later on if people begin to wander off or get lost.

Reasons for wandering include:

  • Boredom
  • Excess energy
  • To walk off discomfort
  • Trying to find something
  • Confusion, thinking he or she must get somewhere

Suggestions for Caregivers

  • Trying to understand why wandering occurs can help you to come up with appropriate responses, such as going on more walks together with your loved one.
  • Be sure that your loved one carries or wears some sort of identification with them at all times. Identification (ID) bracelets or necklaces can be worn easily or information cards can be placed in wallets, purses, or pockets. Identification bracelets for this purpose are available from Safe Return and Project Lifesaver, for example (links in Resources section below). Be sure that any identifier includes your loved one’s name, address, your phone number, and information about his or her medical conditions and allergies.
  • Consider enrolling your loved one in the
    Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program
    or another community program which will assist you in protecting and finding your loved one.
  • Consider installing locks on the external doors that are flush to the door frame or that are near its top or bottom. Learning how to use a new lock can be difficult for someone with dementia and may prevent him or her from wandering outside of the house. However, this same lock may also prevent him or her from escaping in an emergency, so consider both the benefits and risks of locks.

In addition to the prevention suggestions provided above, there are several things caregivers can do increase their loved one’s safety in the event that he or she does wander. These include setting up night-lights, providing a safe location for your loved to wander like a fenced-in yard, and keeping recent photos of your loved one available for the police or for friends and family who would help you search for your loved one in the event that s/he becomes lost.

 

View References

Alzheimer’s Association. Wandering. In Living with Alzheimer’s. 2007. Available at: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-wandering.asp. Retrieved March 30, 2009.

Resources

MedicAlert + Safe Return

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This web page explains the details of a new alliance between MedicAlert and Safe Return, a program that provides identification bracelets containing vital details such as medical and emergency contact information and other assistance to help find missing people. The site discusses how the program works, benefits of membership, and the cost of enrollment.

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Project Lifesaver International

Source: Project Lifesaver
Description: This is the official website for Project Lifesaver, a non-profit organization created by public safety officers which helps locate and rescue missing people using radio technology. Project Lifesaver supplies wrist bands which emit tracking signals to help locate the missing person in minutes.

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Wandering Behavior: Preparing for and Preventing it

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This fact sheet discusses how to recognize risks and potential for wandering, and how to prepare for this behavior.

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Caring for Someone with Dementia: Walking About or 'Wandering'

Source: Alzheimer's Society (United Kingdom)
Description: This web page provides a thorough discussion of wandering, including suggestions for addressing some of the underlying problems that may cause this restless behavior.

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Dementia and Wandering

Source: The Better Health Channel
Description: This web page discusses the most common reasons for wandering, precautions you should take to prevent your loved one from wandering, and what to do if your loved one goes missing.

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