The following tips are provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. ©2013 Alzheimer’s Association, reused with permission.
Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. Use the following strategies to help lower the chances:
- Carry out daily activities. Having a routine can provide structure. Learn about creating a daily plan.
- Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur. Plan activities at that time. Activities and exercises can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented. If the person with dementia wants to leave to “go home” or “go to work,” use communication focused on exploration and validation. Refrain from correcting the person. For example, “We are staying here tonight. We are safe, and I’ll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night’s rest.”
- Ensure all basic needs are met. Has the person gone to the bathroom? Is he or she thirsty or hungry?
- Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation. This could be shopping malls, grocery stores or other busy venues.
- Place locks out of the line of sight. Install either high or low on exterior doors, and consider placing slide bolts at the top or bottom.
- Camouflage doors and door knobs. Camouflage doors by painting them the same color as the walls, or cover them with removable curtains or screens. Cover knobs with cloth the same color as the door or use childproof knobs.
- Use devices that signal when a door or window is opened. This can be as simple as a bell placed above a door or as sophisticated as an electronic home alarm.
- Provide supervision. Never lock the person with dementia in at home alone or leave him or her in a car without supervision.
- Keep car keys out of sight. A person with dementia may drive off and be at risk of potential harm to themselves or others.
If night wandering is a problem:
Make sure the person has restricted fluids two hours before bedtime and has gone to the bathroom just before bed. Also, use night lights throughout the home.