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Six Signs Someone with Alzheimer's Might Wander

Anyone living with a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s is at risk of wandering. “It’s predicted that six of 10 individuals with Alzheimer’s will wander during the disease process,” said Monica Moreno, director of Early-Stage Initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s why it’s important to watch for the potential signs that someone could be at risk to wander.

Following, from the Alzheimer’s Association, are six signs that an individual with Alzheimer’s disease could be at risk:

  1. The disease itself. Anyone living with dementia is at risk of wandering. This behavior can affect individuals in all stages of the disease as long as that person is mobile. “Wandering can happen at any time, and not just on foot…someone in a car or even a wheelchair could wander,” Moreno said. Returning home later than usual from a regular walk or drive could be a sign an individual has wandered or become lost. If an individual has wandered before, he or she will likely wander again.

  2. Trouble navigating familiar places. If Dad has trouble getting to and from places he has frequented for years, it’s a potential sign he could wander and become lost. Perhaps Mom is unable to locate a room in the house she’s lived in for decades. That desire to get to a certain place could prompt individuals with Alzheimer’s to go in search of where they feel they need or want to be.

  3. Talk about fulfilling non-existent obligations. If Dad keeps discussing going back to work, or Mom is talking about taking the baby – who is now an adult – to the doctor, a loved one with Alzheimer’s could be at risk of wandering.

  4. Agitation during the late afternoon or early evening. Individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementia often become agitated and restless, even pacing, as fatigue sets in and are at greater risk of wandering. Frequently this occurs during early evening hours, commonly referred to as “sundowning.” A daughter caregiver named Robyn calls this her biggest challenge. “Sundowning is always present around dinnertime and it becomes even more challenging to keep Mom calm. Conducting research and learning what approaches to use have really helped us to understand and prepare.”

  5. Wanting to go home when they’re already there. Caregiver Julie knows this frustration. “I have a problem with my mother always repeating she wants to go home. I may get her mind off this for just a moment, but then she begins to repeat the same sentence over and over.” Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often go looking for home when they are already there. Reassure a loved one he or she is safe and secure.

  6. Unmet needs. If a loved one wants to go to the bathroom, but can’t remember where it is, that individual could be at risk of wandering. Make sure all needs are met as quickly as possible.

Check out “Proactive Steps to Help Manage Wandering Behaviors”.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. November 10, 2016 at 10:44 am
    Posted by Melody Hegler

    My mom (86), keeps saying she wants to go home to a place in South Georgia. She never lived in that town, but was raised and left home at 18, in a town near. When I reassure her she is safe, that she lives with me (in her home), I get "how do you put up with me".
  2. October 9, 2016 at 05:36 pm
    Posted by Elizabeth Hanrahan-Melendez

    I am 50 year old and I am frightened I've been diagnosed with Dementia and early onset Alzheimer's. I was exhibiting signs since 48 that something was wrong with me but everyone just thought I was just being me just sillier. This hit me like a rock to my face. Never dreamed it could've been this. I fear for my children who are 29,23, and 18 year old twins.
  3. September 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm
    Posted by Barbara

    I am just thinking of my future. I have three children, who most likely will not have the ability to take care of me, if that time comes, even though they say they will. I, certainly, hope I do not live that long to be a burden. I am 80 and see changes in my older acquaintences and it is so heartbreaking.

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