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Preventing dementia wandering

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can cause people to lose their ability to recognise familiar places and faces. It is common that those living with dementia may wander or become confused about their location and this can happen at any time of the disease.

Although wandering is common among those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, it can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening which can be stressful and upsetting for caregivers, family and friends.

Prepare the home

There are many ways you can prepare the home to prevent those with dementia from wandering.

  • Cover external door handles and knobs with material that is the same colour as the door to camouflage it.
  • Use warning bells or alarms at the top of external doors to signal when the door has been opened.
  • Install high hedges or fences around the edge of the property so even if they do get out of the house, they can’t easily leave the property.
  • Paint external doors the same colour as the walls to camouflage them and make them not as noticeable for those with dementia. You could also cover the doors with screens or curtains that can be removed.
  • Store items such as wallets, keys, outdoor clothing and shoes out of sight so they do not get triggered to leave
  • Add labels to all switches, plug sockets, doors and objects to remind that individual where a door goes or what an object does.
  • Using black tape, black paint or a black rug in front of the door may act as a visual stop barrier to those with dementia.

Plan arrangements

It Is important to have a plan of action in place in preparation just in case a person living with dementia wanders off and it becomes an emergency,

  • Ask friends, family and neighbours if they see the individual dressed inappropriately, wandering or lost to call you immediately.
  • Keep a recent image of the individual so you can show the police if you need to.
  • Try to note down what they are wearing every morning and night so that you can describe their outfit easily to the police or to family or friends that try to help find them.
  • Make sure you know all surrounding areas of where the individual with dementia lives, especially if they are dangerous, like open bodies of water, roads with fast/heavy traffic and areas with dense foliage.
  • Create a list of locations that the individual might wander to, this could include places of worship, past jobs, past homes or their favourite restaurant.

What to do when wandering occurs

  • When wandering occurs it is important to act immediately and start searching. Take into consideration whether the individual is left-handed or right-handed. Those who wander often follow the direction of their dominant hand.
  • Check landscapes in the local area such as tree lines, fence lines or ponds. Those who wander can be fond of shrubbery and bushes.
  • First, check by looking in the surrounding area. Lots of those who wander are often found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.
  • If the individual has already wandered before, try searching the same route and where they were found previously.
  • If you have not found the individual within 15 minutes, call the authorities and file a missing person’s report, not forgetting to mention that they have dementia.

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