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Tips to Prevent Alzheimer’s Wandering

Tips to Prevent Alzheimer’s Wandering

By Mary Bates, MS, CT, Certified Dementia Practitioner

Six in 10 people living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia tend to wander at least once and sometimes more often, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Wandering is dangerous for your loved one and can be scary and stressful for you as the caretaker.

To reduce the risk of wandering and give caregivers peace of mind, the Alzheimer’s Association offers the following tips, although they won’t completely eradicate the possibility that a loved one will wander:

  • Ensure that your loved one’s basic needs — food, hydration and toileting — are met to reduce the possibility that they will wander to fill those needs.
  • Help them engage in meaningful activities throughout the day, such as folding laundry, preparing a meal, gardening, working on a jigsaw puzzle or feeding the birds.
  • Try to identify the time of day when the person is anxious or restless and more apt to wander and engage them in activities and/or exercises during those hours.
  • Offer reassurance if the person is feeling disoriented.
  • Securely store car keys, outdoor clothing, and purses and wallets to deter the person from thinking they have someplace to go as they did before their dementia diagnosis.
  • Avoid busy places, like restaurants, grocery stores and shopping malls, and unfamiliar places, as they can lead to disorientation. If you must go there with your loved one, never leave them alone and unsupervised.
  • Establish safety measures at home, such as installing deadbolts on doors above eye level; placing nightlights around the house; camouflaging outside doors by painting them the same color as the walls; and installing bells or an alarm above the door to sound an alert.
  • Other safety measures include using a pressure-sensitive mat in front of the door and by their bed to alert you to movement; and labeling all doors that describe what they are — Bathroom, Kitchen, Living Room and Bedroom — and placing signs with their name on frequently used furniture, such as Ann’s Chair. Label outside doors Do Not Enter.
  • If feasible, plant hedges or erect a fence around your yard or patio so that your loved one can go outdoors, but can’t wander away.
  • Never leave your loved one alone in a car.

It’s important to plan for the eventuality that your loved one may wander:

  • Use a GPS tracking service or enroll the person in a wandering response service. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) for more information.
  • Let neighbors know that your loved one has dementia and ask them to notify you immediately if they see the person outside.
  • Always keep an up-to-date, close-up photo of your loved one on hand to share with police if needed.
  • If your loved one wanders away, search in the immediate vicinity for 15 minutes and if you can’t find them within that time period call 911 and let emergency responders know that the person has dementia.

We all hope as caretakers that we never have to worry that our loved on will wander, but it’s best to be proactive and prepared.

· Safety Resources (
· Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900)

Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.

Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column.


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