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Wandering and how to be prepared?

Six in ten individuals with Alzheimer's disease or related dementia will wander at least once and most likely repeat this behavior.

While the exact causes of wandering behavior are not fully understood, it may occur in some individuals who are searching for something, or trying to get back to a place they remember like a job or favorite destination. And sometimes people just wander or walk away because they are restless or agitated.

Common reasons people wander

  • Unable to retain instructions to wait, not leave, stay in the car, stay in the house

  • Agitation, or possible onset of delirium 

  • A sudden new routine or situation

  • Response to something they hear or see

  • Looking for something related to their past

  • Want to “go home” even though they are home

Signs a person with dementia may be at risk for wandering

They may say:​

  • I want to go home

  • I need to go to work

  • I have to go shopping

  • They may not recognize their house anymore.

  • They need reminded about the location of their bedroom or bathroom.

  • They may exhibit increased restlessness, pacing.

  • They do not remember to come back into the house when they are outside.

  • They cannot stay on task and forget what they are doing or where they are.

Steps to take for preventing wandering

There are some steps caregivers can take to help prevent wandering or make it difficult for the person to wander away including:

  • Creating a secure environment by…

    • Locks on doors

    • Door or window alarms

    • Securing car keys

    • Childproof door knob covers

    • Not leaving the person alone at home or in a car

    • Obtain a location-tracking device for the person. The Beaufort County and Jasper County Sheriff's Offices have a FREE bracelet that can be placed on the person. It's called Project Lifesaver

  • Managing restless behavior with....​

    • Regular physical exercise

    • Day program outside the home where they can socialize with others, like the one we have here at Memory Matters

    • Ensuring adequate sleep

    • Reporting behavior changes or increased confusion to the person’s doctor

    • Activities to occupy the person’s time

If your loved one or someone you are caring for wanders away, call 9-1-1. 

  • Then start searching immediately. Consider if the person is right or left-handed. They will tend to wander in the direct of their dominant hand.

  • Begin looking in the surrounding areas. Many individual's who wander will be found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared. 

  • Check under brush and trees.

  • If they've wandered before, go back to where they went in the past.

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