Alzheimer's causes disorientation, which can lead to wandering. Here's how to curb or prevent wandering, as well as ensure a safe return if your loved one is lost.
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Subscribe to our Alzheimer's Caregiving e-newsletter to stay up to date on Alzheimer's topics.Wandering or getting lost is common among people with dementia. This behavior can happen at any stage of Alzheimer's. If your loved one has Alzheimer's, he or she is at risk of getting lost — even if he or she has never wandered in the past.
There are many reasons why a person who has Alzheimer's might wander, including:
Wandering is not necessarily harmful if it occurs in a safe and controlled environment. However, wandering can pose safety issues.
To prevent unsafe wandering identify why the wandering might be happening. For example, if your loved one tends to wander at the same time every day or when he or she is bored, plan meaningful activities to keep him or her better engaged. If your loved one is searching for a spouse or child, post a sign stating that the person in question will be visiting soon to provide reassurance and reduce wandering.
Keep your loved one safe
It's not always possible to prevent wandering. To keep your loved one safe:
Ensure a safe return
Wanderers who get lost can be difficult to find because they often react unpredictably. For example, they might not call for help or respond to searchers' calls. Once found, wanderers might not remember their names or where they live.
If you're concerned about your loved one's wandering, inform the local police, your neighbors and other close contacts about your loved one's condition. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy in case you can't find your loved one. Keep a recent photo of your loved one on hand, too.
Also consider enrolling in the Alzheimer's Association safe-return program. For a small fee, participants receive an identification bracelet and access to 24-hour support in case of emergency.
If your loved one is lost, contact local authorities and the safe-return program — if you've enrolled — right away. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner your loved one is likely to be found.