Why do they wander?

You may experience your loved one physically move, whether that be on foot, in a wheelchair, or (depending of their abilities) in a vehicle, with no intended destination. In fact, it may appear to observers as aimless movement. People with dementia “wander” for many different reasons.

A person with dementia may wander because his/her needs are not met, but he/she does not know what that need is and how to satisfy it. For example, people with dementia may wander if they are hungry, need to use the bathroom, or are in pain. The person may also wander in search of familiar surroundings because where the person currently is may not be recognizable in his/her mind. If people with dementia are bored, need stimulation, or have too much stimulation causing agitation, they may also wander.

The best proactive measures for caregivers involve keeping the loved one with dementia safe in case of wandering. Some of those measures include:

-Make sure the person carries some form of identification or wears a medical ID bracelet.

-Let neighbors and your local police know that your loved one tends to wander so that you can be alerted if they witness this activity.

-Place labels in garments with contact information.

-Keep a used, unwashed article of clothing in a plastic bag to aid in the search efforts should he/she become lost.

-Keep a recent photo or video recording of your loved one available to aid the police in rescue efforts.

There are also changes you can make to the home environment to make wandering less likely such as the following:

-Secure the yard with fencing and a locked gate.

-Keep shoes, keys, suitcases, coats, hats, and other symbols of departure hidden.

-Install a sound-alerting device (bells, chimes, etc.) that signals when the exterior door is being opened.

-Keep exterior doors locked; use a keypad entry system, or install locks above eye level.

-Use child-protection door knob covers.

-Place signs that state words like STOP, DO NOT ENTER, or CLOSED on the exterior doors.

Additional resources to assist caregivers in protecting wandering loved ones can be found linked below.