5 Ways to Prevent Seniors with Dementia from Wandering

Posted by Enlivant support center on January 7, 2019

Your neighbor just found your senior dad wandering alone outside. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is common in people who have memory problems or dementia. The Alzheimer's Association says that 60 percent of people with dementia will wander. It affects everyone, as family members live in fear that their loved one will wander off and get lost or hurt, especially in the middle of the night. 

Why Do Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients Wander?
Anyone in the beginning stages of dementia is a candidate for wandering. Here are some warning signs your loved one might be wandering:
  1. Returns home after a walk or drive later than usual
  2. Is nervous or disoriented in crowded places outside of the home
  3. Has trouble finding familiar places such as the bathroom, bedroom, or their own home
Of course, you can’t watch your parent 24 hours a day. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help manage wandering for your loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s:
  1. Keep doors shut. It goes without saying, but keeping exterior doors and windows closed will help prevent wandering. Since wandering can happen in the middle of night, make sure doors are locked before going to bed. You can install a special locking device made for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 
  2. Hide the keys. Minimize the temptation for seniors to wander off by putting away all house and car keys. A person with dementia may not remember that they’re not supposed to drive. 
  3. Plan activities. When seniors are restless, they might be more apt to wander. Create a routine that includes exercise and activities (such as art therapy or music therapy) that helps reduce stress and agitation. 
  4. Keep food and water accessible. Many times wandering occurs when seniors are hungry or thirsty. They may wake up in the middle of the night to eat and get disoriented. Leave a water bottle and some crackers where your loved one can find them. 
  5. Alarms and monitors. In addition to hanging bells on the front door, there are devices that help prevent wandering, including motion detection alarms for doors and beds. There are also GPS monitoring systems that can track a senior’s whereabouts.
Memory care
Caring for a loved one with memory problems or dementia can be very challenging even for the most committed caregivers and family members. If the stress gets to be too much, or if your loved one is at risk, it might be time to find a memory care community that meets their needs.

Alzheimer’s Association