Wandering in Dementia



Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, especially if that person is prone to wandering. Six in 10 people with dementia will wander at some stage of their condition. Someone with dementia can begin to wander for any number of reasons, putting themselves at a significant risk of injury, so it's important to have the proper measure in place to prevent it from happening. There are several products available to minimise the risk of wandering, but before using technology to deal with the issue, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your loved one's safety.


It is important to know what the causes of wandering are before attempting to deal with it. There are various reasons why people with memory troubles can wander, it might be as simple as looking for something to eat or drink or just because they are bored or would like to go for a walk. Once they are out of their house they can easily forget where they live or even their name which will be a traumatic experience.


Who is at risk of wandering?


Anyone with memory problems and is mobile is at risk of wandering. Even people with early stage dementia can become disoriented or confused. It is important to know the symptoms and then prepare to deal with the situation. The following behaviours are early indicators that should prompt action to prevent wandering:

  • Restless behaviour, pacing and repetitive movements

  • Asking about people that have passed away

  • Wanting to go home even when at home

  • Cannot remember how to get to familiar places, even rooms in their own homes

  • Taking longer to return from routine walks

  • Talking about performing prior tasks, such as going to work

  • Difficulty locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or dining room

  • Performing tasks, but not actually doing anything

  • Acting uneasy in busy places with large crowds of people

Tips to prevent wandering


Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. Use the following strategies to help lower the chances:


Establish an Activity Schedule - Having a daily schedule of activities can help to prevent the anxiety that often ends up in wandering. Keeping someone with Dementia busy during the day will reduce the risk of confusion. If there is a specific time of the day that wandering occur plan activities at that time.


Ensure Needs are Met – Making sure that access to water, food or going to the bathroom is easy to achieve it will keep them relaxed and they would not wander to satisfy their basic human needs.


Have an Action Plan - If wandering does occur, make sure you're prepared. Begin search-and-rescue efforts immediately. Ninety-four percent of people who wander are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.


The stress experienced by families and caregivers when a person with dementia wanders and becomes lost is significant. Have a plan in place beforehand, so you know what to do in case of an emergency:


  • Ensure your loved one always has an ID and contact details on them

  • Make sure you have the contact details of the local authorities and keep a recent photo on hand to provide to them if your loved one has wandered off

  • Have telephone numbers of people that you can call for help easily accessible

  • Ask neighbours, friends and family to call if they see the person alone

  • Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic

  • Is the individual right or left-handed? Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand

  • Keep a list of places where the person may wander. This could include past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant

  • Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented. If the person with dementia wants to leave to "go home" or "go to work," use communication focused on exploration and validation. Refrain from correcting the person. For example, "We are staying here tonight. We are safe and I'll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night's rest."

  • Avoid busy places. Large crowds of people and busy places can be confusing and can cause panic

  • Add extra locks on exterior doors. Install locks out of sight such as slide bolts at the top or bottom

  • Use anti-wandering devices. There are a range of devices available for this purpose or just a bell placed above a door could serve the purpose

  • Provide supervision. Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised in new or changed surroundings. Never lock a person in at home or leave him or her in a car alone

  • Keep car keys out of sight. If the person is no longer driving, remove access to car keys — a person with dementia may not just wander by foot. The person may forget that he or she can no longer drive. If the person is still able to drive, consider using a GPS device to help if they get lost


Anti-Wandering Products


Even once you've done everything possible to prevent wandering from happening, the risk is still present. Your loved one's home should always be a safe place, and anti-wandering products can help to make it as safe as possible. Dementia Wandering Products can help you combat wandering in a number of ways, including:

  • Alerting you when your loved one leaves their bed

  • Alerting you when someone passes through a doorway

  • Alerting you when a loved one leaves their chair

  • Allowing you to track your loved one's location via GPS

  • Sounding a calming pre-recorded voice message to speak to your loved one

  • Alerting you of motion within a certain room or area

  • Alerting you if a door or window is opened

  • Alerting you when a floor sensor is stepped on, and continuing to sound after the person steps off


Live-in care can help keep your loved one safe by providing 24hr care in their own home. If you would like to talk to us about dementia live-in care, our friendly team are here to help you arrange live-in care - call us on 0800 980 3958 (freephone) or email hello@access-care.co.uk

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