How dementia caregivers can protect against wandering


A 73-year-old woman went missing in Dalton last month.

A 66-year-old man also vanished the same week near Columbus.

Luckily, they were both found safe and have returned home.

Authorities say that the woman wandered away from a parked car at a care facility. She was with her caretaker at the time. When the caretaker went inside the building for a moment, the woman wandered away.

The gentleman from Ohio found himself in a similar scenario. He too was reported missing after walking away from a medical facility. After nearly a full day of not knowing about his whereabouts, police found him safe and unharmed.

Sadly, this occurrence happens all too frequently. The stories of wandering individuals with dementia are heartbreaking. There’s nothing more stressful for families and caregivers than when the person in their care is suddenly and unexpectedly on their own and in an unknown place.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that 6 out of 10 people living with dementia will wander. What’s worse is that it can happen to anyone with dementia symptoms, no matter how advance it might be.

Families and caregivers might think, “How could this happen?” Individuals living with dementia symptoms can be slower-moving or need assistance for getting around or even walking. As unbelievable and unlikely as it seems, people wandering off occurs all too frequently.

In some cases, there’s a positive outcome, but the truth is that people with dementia symptoms can put themselves in a difficult and hazardous situation when they wander away from home. With each passing hour of having gone missing, the risks of an injury, accident or something worse, begins to increase.


It’s important to understand the reasons behind wandering.

There’s no one dominant cause. Several circumstances can trigger an episode. When someone feels fear and stress, panic can set in. Then, they might not know where they are. They might not be aware that they are safe.

A sudden loud noise or over-stimulation can cause an immediate reaction of confusion or stress.

In other cases, people wander off simply because they are looking for food, the restroom, fresh air or something they think they may have lost. Other factors include boredom or a memory of an old routine.


A simple home modification, or a series of them, is a good first step toward protecting your loved one. The goal is to block off exits with safety devices. A childproof doorknob, for example, is an inexpensive and effective way to cutoff immediate access to the outside world.

An additional door lock placed on the upper part of the door and out of sight is another solution. In many cases, people with dementia will focus their line of sight to what’s at eye level.

Door alarms, mats that detect motion and an alarm system such as SafeWander are also invaluable tools.

Other safety measures

A wearable tracking device is another option. A device equipped with GPS can send a tracking signal in the event of a disappearance.

Simply hiding away car keys, wallets and other personal items can help. If there’s a risk that the person in your car will drive away, then this is a good step toward prevention. Some folks will not leave their residence without their wallet or purse, so it’s also a good idea to put these personal items away when they’re not really needed.

The fact of the matter is that always being prepared can be your best bet for avoiding this situation. Things like regularly taking photos, so a recent photo is always available, and letting your neighbors know about your role as a caregiver can be lifesavers. You can also attach identification to clothing so it’s always with them no matter where they are.

If you experience a close call, make sure to take notes and see if you can identify any possible triggers. Wandering behavior can be traced to certain patterns. So, the more information you have, the better prepared you and your loved one can be.

If you would like more information and tips on wandering, contact me today! I would be happy to chat.

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