Alzheimer’s Wandering: What it is and How to Manage it

Alzheimer’s wandering is one of the biggest challenges caregivers must deal with in Alzheimer’s patients. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 out of every 10 people with Alzheimer’s exhibit wandering behavior, whether it’s on foot or while driving. If the senior is not found quickly, it can often result in serious injury or worse, death.

How to Detect Wandering Behavior

There are a few signs or symptoms that can alert you to wandering behavior in your loved one and these can occur at any stage of the disease progression. Being aware of these signs can help you be proactive and prevent any incidents from occurring. Here are some of the signs to be aware of:

  • Staying out later, returning home late from a walk or a drive
  • Forgetting how to get somewhere familiar, like the grocery store
  • Talks about fulfilling obligations that are no longer relevant, like going to a job interview, or needing to go to work
  • Continually tries to “go home.” This can happen even when they are in their own home
  • Is restless, paces, or makes repetitive movements
  • Cannot locate the bathroom, bedroom, or other familiar places

How To Prevent and Manage Your Wandering Loved One

Having a loved one who wanders is especially difficult, and they can often not be trusted to be alone. Here are a few ways to help manage your loved one’s wandering:

  • Enroll your loved one in a local “Silver Alert” Directory or a similar registry if available. This is a public notification system (like an Amber Alert) that broadcasts information about a missing person, specifically senior citizens in order to help locate them should they wander off
  • Notify trusted neighbors, and introduce your loved one if possible. This way they can be aware of the situation and may be likely to say or do something if they see your loved one wandering by themselves.
  • Consider house adaptations to keep your loved one from wandering, especially at night. These can include hard to reach deadbolts or an alarm of some sort to alert you when a door has been opened.
  • Create and stick to a daily routine. This will help reduce anxiety and leaves less of an opportunity to wander.
  • Look into tracking technologies like wearable GPS bracelets that can track where your loved one is at. These are of course not fail-safe and you must still be attentive in monitoring them.
  • Keep car keys out of sight. Your loved one may forget they are not allowed to drive anymore and try to take the keys. It’s best just to remove them from the home.

If your loved one is at risk of wandering, it is best to provide adequate supervision, and never leave them alone or locked somewhere by themselves. Having a loved one who wanders is considerably stressful for the caregiver, but being proactive and having proper preventative measures in place can help ease the stress.