Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert
Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert is brought to you each week by Elayne Forgie and the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center.
Question: I’m worried about my mom wandering and getting lost. What can I do?
Answer: A person with dementia is at risk for wandering and becoming list; many do so repeatedly. In fact, more than 60% of those with dementia will wander. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering individuals will suffer serious injury or death.
It’s important to be aware of the risk factors for wandering and determine if your mother is at real risk:
Signs of Wandering Behavior in Alzheimer’s Patients
A person may be at risk for wandering if he or she:
- Comes back from a regular walk or drive later than usual
- Tries to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work.
- Tries or wants to “go home”, even when at home.
- Is restless, paces or makes repetitive movements.
- Has a hard time locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen.
- Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but gets nothing done. (example: stands in front of the laundry basket but doesn’t fold anything).
- Acts nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or restaurants.
Tips to Reduce Wandering
There are some things that you can do to help reduce your mom’s risk of wandering:
- Provide opportunities for the person to engage in structured, meaningful activities throughout the day.
- Make sure the person gets enough exercise, which can help reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Place deadbolts either high or low on exterior doors.
- Ensure all basic needs are met (example: toileting, nutrition, hunger, thirst, warmth)
- Carry out daily activities, such as folding laundry or preparing dinner.
- Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.
- Control assess to car keys. A person with dementia may not just wander by foot.
- Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation, such as shopping malls.
- Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised in new surroundings.
Last, consider getting your mother a Safe Return® bracelet from the Alzheimer’s Association, which assists in the return of those who wander or get lost.