Alzheimer's and Dementa Caregiving, Dementia Caregiver Stories

Managing Wandering

Worrying about losing your Loved One can sap your energy. We hope this helps.

Things to know

People with dementia get lost - because:

  • they drive somewhere and forget how to get home;

  • they forgot they agreed to wait for you and wander;

  • they don't recognize where they are and slip out a door when no one notices

  • they are lost and don't have the language or problem solving skills to ask for help

ISSUE

Early on, if your Loved One can safely drive and/or walk on their own, you may note concerning behavior and agree to safeguards - like carrying a phone and tracking their whereabouts.

Later, if they are mobile, but can't communicate or problem solve, then you may need additional strategies.

TIMING

1. Be mindful of both their stress and yours. Worrying about their whereabouts and/or tracking them down can be all-consuming.

2. Considered a layered approach, including telling neighbors and police, utilizing technology, and modifying your home.

3. Managing wandering may prompt many families to get in or out-of-home help. 

A FEW TIPS

How you can do it

Learn more about how other caregivers have managed wandering

MORE STORIES ABOUT WANDERING

We are building a guide to help you manage wandering. Have ideas on what you would find helpful? Let us know!

COMING SOON -

WANDERING GUIDE

How they did it

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SHANNON

Age: Early 60s

Loved One: Husband, Mid-60s

Diagnosis: Early Onset

Years Since Diagnosis: 7

I had to dig into our retirement.  I couldn't afford daycare.  I couldn't afford to have people babysit.  I installed cameras everywhere and I went to work. My husband was a runner. He continued to run and walk. He got lost a lot.  I had trackers on him. I use two different things. Once the police called, he had been 30 miles away. He had walked. The cop said “he had to have gotten on a bus.” But I checked the tracker. He walked. Once he started he’d just go in a line.  

 

The minute he was diagnosed, I went to the police and filled out a form so they knew who he was and where we lived. They would pick him and bring him home. Sometimes they’d check to see if the house was safe.

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TESS

Age: Late 20s

Loved One: Mom, Mid-50s

Diagnosis: Early Onset

Years Since Diagnosis: 5

I have a family cell phone plan that allows parents to track children or, in my case, for children to track parents. This is a generational difference. An 80 or 90 year old Alzheimer’s patient wouldn’t  necessarily carry a phone so this wouldn’t work for them. But my mom has had a phone for over twenty years. 

 

Using the GPS on her phone has been really helpful because I can set boundaries. I have automated messages that I receive a nine, noon, and three that tell me she is. I also have set different zones so I know when she is in a different area and I am alerted when she leaves our house or her partner’s house.

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SCARLETT

Age: Early 70s

Loved One: Husband, Early 80s

Diagnosis: Vascular Dementia

Years Since Diagnosis: In Progress

There are a lot of us who walk dogs. So I told the people I see when walking that” if you see my husband and he looks disoriented, please walk him home.” Everyone said “of course!”  He would be mortified if he knew that basically everybody I know in the neighborhood knows. It's a mile from where we live to the gates to get out, so I think if he wandered someone would find him before he got in danger.  In the future, I’ll have to think about tracking him. He’d pass a lot of people before the gates and he really doesn't wander. The one thing he does is run to tell the neighbors about what he saw on the news, sometimes confusing the news with a true crime show he watches (laughs).