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How to Deal With Dementia-Related Wandering

Wandering puts those with dementia at risk

Family Caregiver Alliance

People with dementia commonly walk aimlessly and wander away from their homes. It’s not always clear why someone is wandering. It could be a side effect of medication. The person may be bored or looking for something or someone. He or she may be trying to fulfill a physical need, like thirst, hunger, the need to use the toilet or exercise.

Here are some strategies to reduce wandering and keep people safe:

  • Make time for regular exercise to minimize restlessness.‬
  • Consider installing locks that require a key.
  • Position locks high or low on the door; many people with dementia will not think to look beyond eye level.
  • Keep in mind fire and safety concerns for all family members; the lock(s) must be accessible to others and easy to open
  • Try a barrier like a curtain or colored streamer to mask the door. A “stop” sign or “do not enter” sign also may help.‬
  • Place a black mat or paint a black space on your front porch; this may appear to be an impassable hole to the person with dementia.‬
  • Add child-safe plastic covers to doorknobs.‬
  • Consider installing a home security system or monitoring system designed to keep watch over someone with dementia‬.
  • Consider a wearable GPS digital device or other technology to track or locate a person who wanders off.
  • Put away essential items such as the confused person’s coat, purse or glasses. Some individuals will not go out without certain articles.‬
  • Have the person wear an ID bracelet and sew ID labels in their clothes.
  • Keep a current photo on hand in case you need to report your loved one missing.
  • Register the person likely to wander with the police department or the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program
  • Tell neighbors about your relative’s wandering behavior and make sure they have your phone number.‬

Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program

Handle Dementia-Related Behaviors With Compassion

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