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What to Do if a Person with Dementia Wanders?

by Max Gottlieb


In last weeks blogpost you read about why people with dementia often wander. Part two gives you tips for what to do if it happens or how to prevent it! 




Enrolling someone in a Silver Alert program puts their name and information into a database. If an emergency occurs, the profile is then sent to local police stations or broadcast to the public. In Phoenix, for example, Silver Alerts are broadcast onto official highway message signs. Not every state offers this type of program, but if offered, it is definitely an advantage. 




Beyond Silver Alerts, there are new technologies constantly emerging to help wanderers return home more quickly. There are bracelets, tennis shoes,long-range medical alertnecklaces, and more that all have GPS tracking devices in them. These technologies are not to replace actual human monitoring, but can provide a little bit of extra help in the worst-case scenario. If someone truly becomes lost, a GPS device can be a lifesaver. 
















Of course, people cannot be watched every moment of the day, but if you plan ahead, a catastrophe can hopefully be avoided. ​


  1. Make sure the person always has an ID on them or purchase a metal, medical-style bracelet with contact information that cannot be removed.  

  2. If you and the senior in question are going out for the day, make sure they wear clearly visible clothing to ensure they do not get lost in a crowd if you happen to turn around or get distracted. 

  3. Try to figure out the times that someone is most likely to wander and if possible, figure out the places they tend to gravitate towards. Oftentimes, people have patterns. 

  4. If the person tends to wake up at night, make sure there is water next to their bed or anything else they may need to prevent them from getting up for it. If they do wake up frequently, guarantee the house is well lit, even at night. In addition, be sure that fluids have not been consumed for at least two hours prior to bedtime to avoid late night bathroom trips, leading to disorientation.  ​

  5. If you are living with the person, it is useful to get doors and windows that sound an alert when they are opened. It’s also a good idea to place locks outside, out of sight. Always keep car keys out-of-the-way, as a wandering senior is not only a danger to themselves while driving, but to others as well. 




In the case of someone becoming lost, only check in the immediate vicinity or known destinations for a short amount of time. If the person cannot be found in the usual places, contact 101(UK) or 911(US) and tell them a vulnerable senior is missing. Once you’ve alerted authorities, you can continue searching. Also, a missing persons report can be filed with theMedicAlert Alzheimer’s Association Safe Returnprogram at 1-800-625-3780 if you live in the US.

For theUK,find more information here: https://www.gov.uk/report-missing-person


For people who are not caregivers: if you see a senior who is alone and looks disoriented, speak to them and gauge whether or not they are okay. Stick with them and contact emergency services if you do not believe they are where they should be. Becoming more educated about wandering, whether it’s planning ahead, supervising someone, or simply asking a stranger if they are all right, can help prevent tragedies from occurring. 



AUTHOR BIO

ABOUTMax Gottlieb


Max Gottlieb is the content manager at Senior Planning in Phoenix, Arizona. Senior Planning is a free service, helping seniors and their families navigate the complicated process of long term care planning—from finding benefits to moving into memory care facilities. 

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