According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. A person with Alzheimer's may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places”.
Who is at Risk for wandering:
Anyone who has memory problems and can walk is at risk for wandering. It's important to plan for this type of situation. Wandering and getting lost is common among people with dementia and can happen during any stage of the disease.
Some of the warning signs:
- Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual
- Forgets how to get to familiar places.
- Talks about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work
- Tries or wants to "go home," even when at home
- Is restless, paces or makes repetitive movements
- Has difficulty locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or dining room
- Asks the whereabouts of past friends and family
- Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done (e.g., moves around pots and dirt without planting anything)
Tips of Preventing wandering:
- Carry out daily activities. Having a routine can provide structure.
- Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur. Plan activities at that time. Activities and exercise can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented. If the person with dementia wants to leave to "go home" or "go to work," use communication focused on exploration and validation. Refrain from correcting the person. For example, "We are staying here tonight. We are safe and I'll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night's rest."
- Ensure all basic needs are met. Has the person gone to the bathroom? Is he or she thirsty or hungry?
- Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation. This could be a shopping mall, grocery stores or other busy venues.
- Place locks out of the line of sight. Install either high or low on exterior doors, and consider placing slide bolts at the top or bottom.
- Use devices that signal when a door or window is opened. This can be as simple as a bell placed above a door or as sophisticated as an electronic home alarm.
- Provide supervision. Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised in new or changed surroundings. Never lock a person in at home or leave him or her in a car alone.
- Keep car keys out of sight. If the person is no longer driving, remove access to car keys — a person with dementia may not just wander by foot. The person may forget that he or she can no longer drive. If the person is still able to drive, consider using a GPS device to help if they get lost.
What to do if someone Wandered:
Call 911 and report to the police the person has Alzheimer’s, “a vulnerable adult” is missing. Begin search-and-rescue efforts immediately. Ninety-four percent of people who wander are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.