Alzheimer’s Disease – Handling Wandering

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Some of the greatest challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia are the behavior changes that often occur. Educating yourself about the changes and how to handle them is a good place to start. Those with dementia walk, seemingly aimlessly, for a variety of reasons, such as boredom, medication side effects or to look for “something” or someone. They also may be trying to fulfill a physical need—thirst, hunger, a need to use the toilet or exercise. Discovering the triggers for wandering are not always easy, but they can provide insights into dealing with the behavior. Suggestions to keep your loved one safe include:

  1. Regular exercise– minimizes restlessness.
  2. Position locks high or low on the door– may not think to look beyond eye level.
  3. Mask doors– Cover with a curtain, a “stop” sign or “do not enter” sign.
  4. Place a black mat at the door’s entrance- this may appear to be an impassable hole to the person with dementia.
  5. Install a home monitoring system– to keep watch. Use global positioning systems (GPS) or other technology to track
  6. Put away essential items such as coats, purses, or glasses. Some individuals will not go out without certain articles.
  7. Wear an ID bracelet and sew ID labels on their clothes. Always have a current photo available should you need to report your loved one missing. Consider leaving a copy on file at the police department or registering the person with the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program
  8. Tell neighbors about the wandering behavior and make sure they have your phone number.