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How to Keep Someone with Dementia from Wandering

smiling resident couple outside in the sun

When someone has dementia, it’s not uncommon to experience confusion, disorientation and worries. And as you may already be aware, the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can change over time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 6 in 10 individuals living with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point in their journey.

While wandering can be challenging to prevent, there are ways you, as a caregiver, can keep your family member safe. You must take all necessary precautions to avoid roaming and keep your loved one safe if they do wander off alone.

10 Ways to Prevent Wandering Behavior in a Loved One

Wandering does happen, and while you can take every precaution possible, it’s not always avoidable. You can’t keep an eye on someone at all hours of the day and night. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent wandering behavior and create a safer space for someone living with dementia if they venture off.

  1. Invest in door locks. Specialized locks and tracking devices can be installed on doors, windows and gates. If your your family member does try to wander, it will be difficult for them to leave.
  2. Purchase video or wandering alarms. There are many options for video alarms that will alert caregivers if someone with dementia is attempting to roam.
  3. Improve safety. If possible, make some adjustments to your loved one’s living quarters to make it safe if they do roam. Removing tripping hazards, covering sharp corners, and blocking stairs can go a long way toward keeping your loved one safe.
  4. Look for patterns. Many people living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia have patterns to their behaviors. If you can identify triggers, you can keep an eye on your family member before they have the chance to wander.
  5. Alert neighbors and authorities. If your loved one has wandered before, it’s a good idea to notify your neighbors and local law enforcement there’s a possibility it will happen again.
  6. Use a tracking device. GPS tracking devices can be beneficial in helping you quickly find them if they do roam away from the house unsupervised.
  7. Maintain medical identification. If you have concerns that your aging parent might wander, create a necklace or bracelet for them to wear with medical identification information and your contact information.
  8. Conceal doors and exits. You can discourage individuals with dementia from roaming by covering up doors to the outside. Consider placing a stop sign or other warning message on the door to act as a signal to stay away.
  9. Hide keys, wallets and purses. Make it as difficult as possible for your family member to roam by hiding easily accessible car keys and wallets.
  10. Prepare for anything. It’s not easy to plan for your loved one to wander, but it’s important. Snap a photo of your loved one each day, so you have an up-to-date picture of the clothing they’re currently wearing.

What Causes Wandering?

It can sometimes be challenging to pinpoint exactly what causes wandering in people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Often, individuals can feel anxious, scared, or stressed, triggering wandering. For others, they could simply feel bored or lonely.

While it might be hard to understand the exact reason your family member wanders, it often has to do with the desire or need to live out familiar routines they used to have like going to work or out to dinner. They could also be searching for something and get confused.

As a caregiver, the best thing you can do is minimize stress in your loved one’s life and talk to them about the types of patterns or triggers they’re experiencing that could contribute to wandering. The goal is to get a better understanding to prevent episodes of roaming in the future.

Specialized Care and Support at Parkwood

At Parkwood, our goal is to support you and your loved one through every stage of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Our senior living community offers memory care services that focus on respect, dignity and quality of life. With 24/7 quality memory care, you and your loved one can enjoy peace of mind.

Learn more about our specialized memory care and assisted living community in Bedford and schedule a visit to  experience all Parkwood has to offer.