What to Do When Someone With Dementia Wanders

Senior man with Alzheimer's looking out the front door
There are serious safety concerns when someone with dementia wanders, but these tips can help.

Of the many effects of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most worrisome is a person’s tendency for wandering and the added danger of becoming confused or lost. When someone with dementia wanders, it could be because they are:

  • Scared, confused, or overwhelmed
  • Trying to find someone or something
  • Bored
  • Trying to preserve a familiar past routine (for example, going to work or shopping)
  • Taking care of a basic need (such as looking for a drink of water or going to the bathroom)

The objective is twofold; to help keep the senior safe, and also to make sure their needs are fulfilled to prevent the desire to wander from the outset. Try the following safety measures if your family member is likely to wander:

  • Make sure the residence is equipped with a security system and locks that your senior loved one is not able to master, such as a sliding bolt lock above their range of vision. A variety of alarms can be purchased, from something as straightforward as placing a bell over doorknobs, to highly sensitive pressure mats that will sound an alarm when stepped on, to GPS devices that can be worn, and more. It’s also a good idea to register for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
  • Conceal exits by covering up doors with curtains, setting portable folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You could try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes deter people in the earlier stages of dementia from trying to exit.
  • Another danger for individuals who wander is the increased risk of falling. Assess each room of the house and address any tripping concerns, such as getting rid of throw rugs, electrical cords, and any hindrances that could be blocking walkways, installing extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.

It’s important to keep in mind that by using guidance and direction, wandering is not necessarily a problem. Take a walk together outside whenever weather permits and the person is in the state of mind to be mobile, providing the added benefit of fresh air, exercise, and quality time together.

While often difficult to manage, the dementia care team at Dakota Home Care is specially trained to be both vigilant and proactive in deterring wandering and to incorporate creative approaches to help seniors with dementia stay relaxed and happy. Call us at (877) 691-0015 to learn more about our award-winning senior care at home senior services in Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo.

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