8 Ways to Prevent Wandering in Seniors with Dementia

August 17th, 2016 1 Comment

Wandering in Seniors with Dementia In-Home Care Visiting Angels New Jersey

There are more than 5-million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and 6-in-10 will begin to wander. Seniors living with dementia often don’t remember their name, other peoples’ names, or their addresses. They can become confused, even when in a familiar place.  Wandering among seniors with dementia can be dangerous, but may be prevented with a few proactive strategies.

Wandering is most common among seniors with dementia and can start at any stage of the disease. Early recognition of warning signs can help loved ones plan for situations that can lead to wandering, such as restless pacing, appearing to be confused or lost in a new or different environment, or difficulty locating familiar places around the house.

Even the most dedicated family member or caregiver can struggle to stop a senior with dementia from wandering, but below are 8 strategies that may lower the chances of wandering:

  • 1. Identify the time of day in which they tend to typically wander. Planning daily activities and getting exercise can help reduce anxiety and restlessness often felt by those with dementia.
  • 2. Make sure all basic daily needs are met. Do they have to use the bathroom? Are they thirsty or hungry? A person who has dementia may become agitated and want to find relief somewhere—causing the wandering behavior.
  • 3. Ensure your home is secure. Install locks on the windows and doors that can’t be opened easily. You should also place the locks higher or lower on the door so that they are out of sight, as this can prevent your loved one from easily unlocking the door and getting out and wandering. You may also hang a bell on the doorknob or purchase wander alarms to alert you when your loved one is attempting to leave.
  • 4. Keep car keys out of sight. This will eliminate the chance of a person with dementia from driving a car and putting themselves and others in danger.
  • 5. Wear brightly colored clothing. If you’re going to be in a crowd or a busy place, have your loved one dress brightly colored clothing. By wearing brightly colored clothing, it will make it easier to spot them at a distance or in a crowd should they wander.
  • 6. Provide reassurance if the person feels lost, abandoned or confused. Use communication that focuses on exploration and validation in situations where the person with dementia may want to leave to “go home” or “go to work.” Instead of correcting them, use statements that re-direct their anxiety such as “everything is under control at work today; I could really use help folding laundry, though.” Communicate with them in such a way that they feel you’re taking them seriously. Try to focus on how they feel rather than what they are saying.
  • 7. Camouflage the exits. In addition to placing door locks out of the line of sight, paint them the same color as the wall to make it more difficult to locate the exit. An alternative would be to cover the doors with a removable curtain or screen.
  • 8. Use signs. Sometimes a simple sign on doors that says “stop” or “do not enter” can prevent wandering.

If your loved one does wander off, do not panic, but do act quickly. If you can’t locate the person, contact the police. It’s a good idea to have them carry a card in their wallet, purse, or ID bracelet with their address and responsible party’s phone number. GPS technology can also help: via a phone app (providing they carry a phone), a watch, or other wearable trackers.

For family caregivers of seniors with dementia, wandering can cause significant stress. Having a plan in place, taking precautions in the home, and knowing what to do in case of an emergency can help decrease that stress.

If your loved one has been wandering, contact Visiting Angels. Visiting Angels can help improve the quality of life for seniors and adults with dementia throughout Mercer and Burlington Counties in New Jersey with individualized, non-medical, in-home care.


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