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Wandering: Understanding and Prevention

What is wandering?

Wandering is a common behavior for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and can be very dangerous. Anyone with dementia is at risk of wandering, and it can begin as people become more confused with their surroundings. People who wander may be searching for something specific or trying to return to a familiar place. Understanding what triggers your loved one to wander and putting a plan into place may give you some reassurance in case this behavior begins.

How to manage it?

There are several ways to help your loved one if they are at risk of wandering and may give you peace of mind.

  • Provide meaningful and structured activities throughout the day to engage your loved one.
  • Make sure your loved one has regular physical exercise and is sleeping adequately.
  • Install warning bells or home security systems to notify you when a main door is opened.
  • Install extra locks on main doors that are out of sight or harder to identify.
  • If applicable, obtain a location tracking device for your loved one.
  • Alert neighbors and friends of wandering behaviors in case your loved one is seen within your community.
  • Create a list of places where your loved one may wander to.
  • Identify any wandering support services – such as Silver Alert or local police services, to aid you in case of an emergency.

What to do if someone you love becomes lost:

There is no way to guarantee that someone with dementia will not wander. It is essential to have a plan in place in case your loved one does wander so you can reduce the danger to them.

  • Start searching for your loved one immediately, begin checking your local neighborhood and check familiar local areas where they might frequent.
  • Notify the police and call 911 if you cannot locate them within a short time. Notify any local wandering support services.
  • Notify neighbors, friends, and family members to aid in a search.
  • Keep an updated photo of your loved one handy if you need to show it to local services.


Photo by Thulfiqar Ali on Unsplash




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