Old farmer

Dementia and Wandering

M4A is passionate about educating our communities about Alzheimer’s and other types of Dementia. The article below was provided by Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama and it talks about the risk of wandering. Please take a moment to read this informative article.



If there is a 60% chance of rain do you prepare and consider the weather in your plans? Would you leave your car windows rolled down? After all, there is a 40% chance it won’t rain. Caregivers of dementia patients take a similar gamble when they don’t consider the very real possibility their loved one with dementia will wander – 60% of dementia patients wander at some point and many do so repeatedly. This is the most dangerous, and potentially deadly dementia behavior.
Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama is working to reduce the dangers of wandering by providing Project Lifesaver bracelets that emit a radio tracking signal. The bracelets have a 100% success rate in Alabama for safe returns. ACA bracelets are available in Jefferson and Bibb Counties. Most Alabama Sheriff’s departments and the Alabama State Troopers provide bracelets. The bracelets are not intended for patients who are driving because they can quickly get out of range.

Every person with dementia who can walk or drive is at risk of becoming lost which can lead to dangerous consequences. Every person with dementia who is still driving should be protected by a GPS system that can help their family or law enforcement locate them if they become lost.

The nature of this disease creates unique challenges to locating a wandering patient. They can easily become disoriented and can get lost in places that we would normally consider familiar, like their neighborhood or even their local Walmart. They may not hear or respond to attempts to call out to them. Patients are vulnerable and can succumb to the elements quickly.

Nothing takes the place of caregiver vigilance – which means the best way to keep your loved one safe from wandering is to be constantly aware and use your eyes and ears. It can happen at any stage of the disease. The factors that often lead to wandering are restlessness, disorientation and boredom.

Common causes of wandering: Searching for something or someone familiar or simply trying to satisfy a basic need, such as hunger or thirst—but they’ve forgotten what to do or where to go. Many wanderers are looking for a bathroom.

Escaping from something like too much stimulation—a loud TV or a lively conversation, even the noise of pots and pans in the kitchen. Reliving the past by trying to go to work or looking for children.

Strategies that may help: Immediately redirect to a productive activity or exercise if the patient is pacing or restless. Offer constant reassurance.
Look for patterns. If the patient gets restless in the late afternoon be prepared every afternoon. Go for a walk or a drive. Have a lemonade break. Find what works to distract.

Never leave the patient alone or unattended. Be sure neighbors know to call if they see the patient unattended. Install child-safety devices or alarms in your home to keep doors and windows secured.

Products that may help: Project Lifesaver bracelets emit a radio tracking signal. These may be available through ACA, your local Sheriff’s Department, or the State Trooper Association. The cost for the first year is $300. www.alzca.org

The Alzheimer’s Store offers a range of products including GPS watches, door alarms, and visual deterrents, as well as a host of other products designed to make your life easier. GPS watches offer the added benefit of alerting the caregiver by text if the patient has left a pre-established boundary, like the house or yard. www.alzstore.com

GizmoGadget, a GPS watch, and locator, with lots of interesting features, $149.99 with a $5 per month fee. Available from Verizon.