Don’t Let Wandering Leave You at a Loss

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Not every person with dementia is prone to wandering, but every person with dementia is at risk for it. In fact, in a recent study, 46 percent of Alzheimer's family caregivers say their loved one has wandered off or gotten lost at some point.​

As we all know, the first rule of dementia is to expect the unexpected. So, even if wandering isn't an issue for you yet, it's smart to familiarize yourself with what to do in case it ever happens.

In addition to the inherent risk of wandering that comes with just having dementia, some other signs that a person might wander include:

  • They are having trouble navigating familiar places or they forget where they are when they are someplace they've been a million times
  • They keep talking about doing something that is no longer relevant to their lives  (i.e. going to work, visiting a person who is deceased or has long moved away, getting the kids off to school, etc.)
  • They tend to experience p.m. agitation, or sundowning
  • They say they want to go home, but they're already there
  • They have delusions or hallucinations
  • They have had a recent change in routine

If a person in your care does wander and you aren't able to find them within 15 minutes, here are the next steps to take:

  • Call 911 and fill out a missing persons report. Because a person with dementia is considered a vulnerable adult, you don't have to wait 24 hours. When you call, be prepared to share a recent photo of the person, as well as information about what meds they are taking, what they are wearing, where they were last seen, where they like to go or might go and what they like to be called.
  • Many law enforcement officers have participated in the Alzheimer's Association's training for first responders and understand that wandering is an urgent issue, even if it's happened many times before, or it hasn't been very long. However, if, for any reason, law enforcement is hesitant to act, call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900, and they will confirm to the officers that they have to take immediate action.
  • Activate the Missing Senior Network to let everyone the person with dementia knows or may encounter that he or she is currently wandering.

For more information, support and resources for those caring for people with dementia, please contact us!


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