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.

A senior woman tries to open her front door.

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”.

8 thoughts on “Six Signs Someone with Alzheimer’s Might Wander

  • margaret evans

    I would like to receive free info. about alzheimers and dementia.I have family members who have died with it,and I’D LIKE TO KNOW MY CHANCES.

  • Sandra

    Would like ideas for best ways families can introduce the idea of placing a loved one with dementia in an assisted or memory care facility when they know he/she is against it? Plans have been made with the facility but the future resident is not aware.

    Wait until the disease is so advanced that the person no longer remembers anyone?

    Take the person on visits to the dining hall/activities a few times a month before any move is scheduled (is this allowed for future residents and their significant others)?

    Just move the person in and leave them there? Other ideas?

  • Suzanne

    You could try what i did when a counsellor suggested it at a group session for dementia caregivers. I yold her she was temporarily going as her apt needed painting and new carpets, refreshed. She agreed, i moved her in with min belongings. Every week i would being more things over from home and just stalled telling her of delays in getting her back. She adjusted quickly and became vomfortable in her surroundings. The disease progressed and she stopped asking about home and i gave notice to the landlord. It was a smooth move and solely in her best interests ♡

  • Suzanne

    You could try what i did. I told her she was temporarily going as her apt needed painting and new carpets, refreshed. She agreed, i moved her in with min belongings. Every week i would being more things over from home and just stalled telling her of delays in getting her back. She adjusted quickly and became comfortable in her surroundings. The disease progressed and she stopped asking about home and i gave notice to the landlord. It was a smooth move and solely in her best interests ♡ she lived there for 6 yrs and passed in Jan. I have never let myself feel guilt.

  • Douglas HOWE

    Just love the person with the same dignity and respect that they’re always deserving of. Suggest it’s a fun visit to a group Old friends, and they are ALL living in the same Apt complex. You can even make reservations in the dinning room for an evening meal ….. àfterwards , a visit to the facilities down stairs LIBRARY and Internet/ game room.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

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