Tips to Help Reduce Wandering in People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Brain injury from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cause confusion and disorientation, which can lead to wandering on foot or by vehicle. 

Wandering may be triggered by searching for something or someone familiar, anxiety or too much stimulation, and reliving past routines (such as the person trying to leave home every morning believing they are going to work), said Eric Rinehardt, PhD, a USF Health clinical neuropsychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and clinical coordinator for the USF Memory Disorders Clinic.

The Clinic’s staff offers the following tips to minimize wandering problems in loved ones with Alzheimer’s and help protect them from getting lost:

• Encourage exercise and redirect pacing or restlessness into productive activity such as folding laundry or placing napkins on the dinner table. This may help curb anxiety and agitation.

• Ensure basic needs, such as hunger, thirst and toileting, are met.

• Camouflage doorknobs with color-matching cloth or paint. Placing a mirror on the doorway so a reflection is seen may also stop the person from exiting.

• Hide keys. Keep car and house keys out of sight to limit the opportunity for wandering.

• Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.

• Install deadbolt or slide-bolt locks and/or warning alarms on exterior doors, and limit access to potentially hazardous areas. Never lock the person with dementia in a home without supervision.

• Inform neighbors and local emergency responders about your loved one’s condition. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy in case he or she disappears.

• Consider enrolling your loved one in an electronic monitoring/emergency response service like the Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program®, Project Lifesaver or Care Trak Systems Inc., to name a few.

– USF Health –

USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group.  Ranked 34th in federal research expenditures for public universities by the National Science Foundation, the University of South Florida is a high impact global research university.