Even the best prepared families can find themselves in a panic after a loved one has wandered from home. “Three times my husband has wandered away from the house and become lost,” said one family caregiver. “EMTs, state police, bloodhounds, family and neighbors have come to the rescue.”

A senior man is lost and confused.

What should you do if you are unable to locate an individual who has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia? Time is of the essence, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Those who wander are often found within a half mile of home or the starting location of the incident. Look in the house – especially in areas like closets – and the yard.

Try to think of clues to where that person may have gone. Did Mom say she wanted to go somewhere – like the store – before the incident occurred? Look in the radius of that area, but allow no more than 15 minutes. If your loved one is not found within 24 hours, he or she could be harmed.

Here are the steps to take if you can’t find someone after 15 minutes:

  1. Call 911 and fill out a missing person’s report. Make sure law officers know that the missing person has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia and is a vulnerable adult. In such cases, law enforcement typically does not require a 24-hour waiting period to look for a missing individual. Have handy an updated photo and current medications list. Be prepared to share information about where and when the individual was last seen, what he or she was wearing when last seen, and if the individual likes to be called by a preferred name or nickname.
  2. If you’re having trouble convincing law officers to take your concerns seriously, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900. The Alzheimer’s Association will talk with law officers and confirm the need for immediate action.

The understanding of Alzheimer’s disease among law enforcement officers and emergency personnel has improved immensely in recent years. To that end, the Alzheimer’s Association has created an online training program for first responders. Since the program was launched in 2014, more than 5,000 police and emergency personnel have taken the course.

To help prevent an emergency from happening, check out “The Whys Behind Wandering Behaviors”.

15 thoughts on “Wandering 911: What to Do When a Person with Dementia Goes Missing

  • Christine Hall

    My husband Mike Hall has dementia i am sure of this and i have problems giving him meds, he also likes to argue with me.

    • Michael

      My mother has dementia and Alzheimer’s. I suggest the following: 1. Consider asking your husband Mike’s Doctor to do a capacity assessment for Mike. 2. Call LHIN if you live here in Canada. They provide excellent in-home care & support. They will also do a capacity assessment. 3. If Mike starts to wander, place him on the vulnerable person’s registry. If you need more info, please let me know. Best of luck.

  • NO Excuses

    Call the ALZ association and get some local help. No excuses for lack of knowledge. It is out there, but you as the caregiver have a legal responsibility to find it.

  • Ashley Johnson

    It made sense when you said that you should call 911 to find a missing person. I would imagine that getting that attention of the police will start a search to find them. For this reason, if I ever needed help with this kind of situation I would call 911.

  • Cassidy woods

    It is very vital to consider Alzheimer association when no one will be there to help you out in missing situation of your parents. Thanks for sharing this useful content with us.

  • Sylvia Roddy

    My son is only 31 ..but has been feeling really sick for at least 2 weeks..he is having symptoms of dimemtia..he went missing last night..was found ..about 7 miles away ..then taken to energency room then released..went missing again..his mind seens to be coming and going..hes walking ..in niddle of night..so no fear..not himself..

    • Marianna

      Please make sure this is not a delerium. Do you have a good “dementia” diagnosis, with a support system? Delerium looks like dementia, but is not the same thing and largely can be treated. At age 31, there are many things other than dementia that cause similar symptoms.

  • wanjiru

    My auncle went missing a couple of days ago when he was traveling back to the U.S. , i stumbled across this site when searching on what to do when someone with alzheimer’s goes missing, i read these comments and told my parents and they called, the same day we called, they found my auncle! he was missing for more than 24 hours i just want to say thank you to this organization they were so much help.

  • Mia

    A family friend went missing from a care center & was difficult to find because he took cover under a bush, covering himself with leaves. He was not found until he came out the next morning. They believe it was the young Boy Scout memory he had used to protect himself from the elements. Look everywhere!

  • S.E. Dundon

    My crisis team works with and trains with Alz Assoc. We recommend taking fresh pictures of your loved one, their house, the car, anything relevant. Make sure to have every detail ready should it be needed for law enforcement. It takes hours to set up a Silver Alert for one lost in a vehicle. Save precious time having all the info ready.

  • Ken Otis

    What to do if you FIND someone lost with dementia or disoriented?

  • jack a gregerson

    my case is very different from these people. my sister has put my brother age 81 who has Alzheimer’s into a care givers or facility and i don’t know where he is. she is angry at me. this is not fair. i want to see my brother again. it has been 3 months now. i understand that information as to these patients information is confidential. which leaves me helpless. this is not right. please help me find my brother. i will be forever great ful. jack gregerson my brother,s name is melvin gregerson

    • Dee

      This sounds similar to my situation my mother is 86 with dementia I am the youngest of four girls in two of my sisters went out tell me where my mother is I have sent a well-being check over to my mom’s house and the sister’s house I know that they both have removed my mother from her home but they are denying my attempt to find out where she is or to even speak with her so my next step is to file a missing persons report please help

  • Jack gregerson

    Would be so nice to see him again as we are close.

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