Dementia Wandering: How to Mitigate the Possible Risks
Dementia Wandering: How to Mitigate the Possible Risks
It’s common for dementia patients to accidentally get lost or confused about their location. In fact, 6 out of 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once in their lives, and many will do so repeatedly.
This alarming statistic has made dementia wandering a major concern for caregivers and family members of seniors with dementia.
But what causes dementia wandering?
- Regular activities like taking walks: A walk to an old neighbourhood or mailbox can lead to disorientation.
- Stress or fear: Crowded or unfamiliar places can stir fear in people living with dementia and make them attempt to flee such environments.
- Poor eyesight: Impaired vision can misguide seniors and make them wander from a designated path.
- Physical discomfort (e.g., thirst or a need for a bathroom trip): While searching for a solution, they may become disoriented and wander.
While it’s impossible to entirely prevent dementia wandering, you can reduce the danger and keep those wandering safe through technology-based solutions, behavioural changes, and always being prepared.
Step 1 - Secure Your Home
The first step to ensuring your loved one’s safety and mitigating the risks of dementia wandering is securing your home so that they don’t leave the house unsupervised.
TechSilver advocates for our seniors to live as independently as possible, but we encourage taking safety measures while at it. A simple home safety modification such as relocating door locks above eye level will prevent exit-seeking behaviours and reduce dementia wandering.
Other ways to secure your home and prevent loved ones from leaving the house unsupervised include:
- Adding child-proof door knob covers to make it more difficult to open the door
- Putting in new door locks that they can’t open on their own
- Keeping objects associated with outdoors (e.g., car keys and shoes) out of sight
- Concealing doors by decorating or covering them with mirrors and posters
- Putting a sign on the door that discourages outside movements, e.g., “Stop” or “Do not Enter”
Beef up your security system further with TechSilver’s Elderly Monitoring System, which informs you of any changes and movements seniors with dementia make around the house. This gives you peace of mind and assures you of their safety even when you’re away.
Step 2 - Install Motion Sensors and Anti-Wandering Alarms
Motion sensors detect and measure movement, making them an integral part of your security system if you have a loved one living with dementia. This is because whenever they move, the sensor detects this movement and sends an alert to your mobile phone.
Another simple way to help is with our Motion Sensor Night Light is a dazzling sensor powered by 9 LED lights that lights up whenever it detects movement. This isn’t for alerting you, but simply to prevent a nasty fall when it’s dark, which can be equally handy!
On the other hand, anti-wandering alarms release a sound when triggered, notifying you when the dementia patient opens a door, enters a different room, or leaves their bed or chair. Some are built to alert you when they leave a local area instead, and often come as part of a dementia tracking device.
Anti-wandering alarms come in many options and styles. Some are large and conspicuous, like the pressure-sensitive mats placed on floors, while others are tiny and portable, such as TechSilver’s Waterproof Dementia GPS Tracker. This can be worn around the neck, on a keychain, or attached to clothing or luggage, making it easy to track and locate your loved one when they go outside unsupervised.
“The tracker is what we need to keep loved ones safe and sound. The product does exactly what it says.”
— TechSilver Verified Buyer
Step 3 - Identify and Solve the Triggers for Wandering Behaviour
Sometimes, we come to understand that there’s a motive behind dementia wandering. In such instances, it’s crucial to identify what caused the wandering, when it occurred, and the activities our loved ones did just before.
Over time, you’ll notice a pattern; maybe they wander at the same time every day, when they are thirsty, bored, or encounter a stressful situation.
Identifying and solving these triggers plays a huge role in mitigating the possible risks of dementia wandering. For instance:
- If they’re trying to fight boredom or lacking in physically engaging activities, find fun activities and games to keep them occupied. A Simple Music Player is ideal for keeping their minds preoccupied as they enjoy their favourite songs.
- If they’re trying to return to an old routine, say driving to work, validate them to make them feel secure, then suggest a safer activity such as taking a walk together.
- If they feel confused in a new environment, provide a calm and serene space where they’ll feel safe.
- If they keep waking up at night because of thirst or hunger, leave a glass of water or a few bites of food by their bedside.
Expert Tip: A recent study on dementia patients found that physical exercise reduces agitation and helps them release stress, a major cause of dementia wandering. This means that a simple exercise such as a supervised walk around the neighbourhood before dinner can reduce night wandering.
Step 4 - Have Your Loved One Wear a GPS Tracking Device at All Times
No matter the solution implemented to keep dementia patients at home or under supervision, it sometimes fails. Without a tracking device, monitoring wandering dementia patients can be a challenge.
A GPS tracker shows you the exact location of your seniors, helping you find them when they wander and cannot trace their way back home. The tracker is usually worn or carried by the dementia patient and monitored by the caregiver through a mobile app.
A major advantage of the GPS tracker is that it allows you and those with dementia to live independently but remain connected when emergencies arise (e.g., wandering and falls).
Below is a simple explanation of how GPS tracking works:
- Your GPS tracker sends a request for its location to satellites orbiting the Earth.
- The satellites return the location information to the GPS tracker device.
- The GPS tracker uses a mobile signal to send that location data to a tracking app or website.
GPS trackers come in all shapes and sizes—some large and ugly, while others are small, discreet, attractive, and portable, like our Dementia Tracker GPS Keyring worn as a necklace, a keyring, or a lanyard attachment.
If your senior loved one won’t enjoy wearing a tracker on their neck, consider some of the other GPS trackers discussed below:
|GPS Tracker||How It’s Worn||Properties|
|Can be attached to keys or other items|
|Hidden in shoe insoles|
|Can be carried on its own|
Still wondering which is the best GPS tracker for your loved one? Read our GPS tracker buying guide to find out.
Step 5 - Be Prepared for Dementia Wandering
Most families and caregivers experience immense stress when their loved ones living with dementia wander or get lost. Having a plan beforehand helps you know what to do and how to act during this trying time.
Below are a few precautions to take just in case your senior loved one wanders:
- Keep a recent close-up photo to show to the police or rescue personnel.
- Make a list of the areas they might wander to, like past restaurants or jobs.
- Ask neighbours and friends to reach out to you whenever they see them wander or look lost.
- Know their neighbourhood and identify areas of potential risk like water bodies, tunnels, and bus stops.
Keep Your Loved One Safe During Dementia Wandering
At TechSilver, we believe technology is the key to improving every senior’s lifestyle and independence. We want your elderly loved ones to feel safe and live independently in their homes for as long as possible—a mission that technology has helped us achieve.
GPS tracking devices help monitor senior adults and mitigate dementia wandering risks without invading their privacy. If you need extra help to manage dementia wandering for your loved ones, our team of experts is here to help.
Contact us today, and we’ll get back to you right away!
“TechSilver staff are helpful, friendly and reassured me on each occasion I needed advice.”
— Kathleen M
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my loved one is missing?
Take immediate action the moment your loved one with dementia wanders away. Our Quick Wandering Action Plan outlines 3 crucial steps to take when this occurs:
- Confirmation: Establish if it’s an emergency and check if they’re nearby.
- Response: If you can’t find them, take the following actions, calmly:
- Call the police
- Alert any nearby caregivers
- Log in to your tracker/s
- If the tracker shows a location, inform the police immediately
- If the tracker has a call feature, try calling the wanderer
- Find your TechSilver Action Plan and prepare it for the police
- Provide details: Fill in their personal details, such as their name, date of birth, and gender, and provide a brief description.
At what stage of dementia does wandering occur?
Dementia wandering is more common in the middle and later stages, although it can occur at any time during the disease. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in a GPS tracker during the onset of the disease to keep your loved ones safe.
How can I prevent a dementia patient from wandering at night?
Ensuring your loved one sleeps better at night will reduce the chances of dementia wandering. You can achieve this by establishing a sleep schedule, limiting day naps, or encouraging physical exercise during the day. A Motion Sensor and an Elderly Monitoring System will also alert you whenever they move.
Hi, I'm Miles
I’m the founder of TechSilver, the world’s leading assistive tech specialists. My team has made these resources to help people care for their loved ones, so we hope we can help you today!
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