Wandering among people with memory loss is dangerous but there are strategies to help prevent it or managed it if the situation does occur…

One of the biggest concerns caregivers have about loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia is wandering. If Mom is suffering from dementia, every creak in the middle of the night may make you think that she is walking out of the house. If Grandpa was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may not feel safe taking him with you to the mall or supermarket. The fear of having your loved one walk off can create a lot of anxiety.

Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it, and make yourself feel more confident that you can manage the situation if it does occur.

  • Secure your home. Place locks on doors and windows, install an alarm system and motion detectors, tie bells to door handles, etc. are all ways to keep tabs on your loved one. Make sure that everyone in the home knows to secure all locks and alarms for safety 24/7.
  • Have a consistent routine in place. Wandering often stems from being bored or left alone for too long, so minimize these times by having a steady routine. If you know, for example, that you have to pick up the kids each day from school at 2 pm, hire the help of a neighbor to fill this gap.
  • Keep your loved one’s needs met. Wandering may also occur because your loved one is hungry, restless or has to use the bathroom. By keeping their needs met, you can hopefully limit wandering. Also make sure that your loved one sees the doctor regularly to rule out sources of pain or discomfort.
  • Avoid busy places. This places a lot of burden on the caregiver, and it can cause anxiety and confusion in your loved one. Save busy places for other times when your loved one can remain safely in the home.
  • Don’t give your loved one opportunities to leave the home. This includes leaving keys in plain sight or making locks on doors attainable. Some families find it helpful to camouflage the locks on doors, such as by painting them the same color as the door, or by installing childproof knobs.
  • Have your loved one carry an ID. While this won’t prevent wandering, it will tell others who your loved one is and where they can find help. Medical ID jewelry or temporary tattoos are the best options since portable IDs can be easily lost. The Alzheimer’s association offers MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® nationwide identification program.
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