Wandering in Dementia: What It Is and How to Ensure Safety

Wandering is one of the most common—and most hazardous—behaviours caused by dementia.

Do you care for someone who might wander off and get lost? It’s a stressful and upsetting problem to cope with. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that can reduce the risks and hassles stemming from the urge to wander.

Let’s learn:

  • Why and how wandering occurs in people with dementia
  • Methods for dealing with wandering in dementia
  • How technology can be used to manage dementia wandering

Why and How Wandering Is a Common Dementia Behaviour

Dementia often results in a sense of disorientation. A person with dementia may be occasionally or constantly confused about where they are, who they’re with, and the situations they find themselves in.

In turn, disorientation may lead to wandering behaviour. An individual may lose track of their surroundings and begin walking without a clear destination, or with a faulty mental map.

Any of the following challenges may cause a person with dementia to wander:

  • Visual or navigational issues: They may easily become lost and have a hard time finding their way back to where they want to be.
  • Anxiety or fear: Public places or unfamiliar settings might cause stress, resulting in wandering to seek a more comfortable setting.
  • Searching: Looking for someone or something can easily turn into wandering.
  • Old habits: They might think that an old routine (such as going to work) is still current, resulting in wandering.
  • Struggles with basic needs: Simple wants and needs like looking for a bathroom or seeking some fresh air can be frustrating when the desired location isn’t easily found. When a person can’t find what they’re looking for, they may lose their way or forget where they were going, resulting in wandering.

Wandering can easily lead to distress and danger. A wandering person may find themselves stuck out in the cold or in an unsafe environment. The situation quickly becomes extremely upsetting for everyone involved.

Methods for Dealing With Wandering in Dementia

Wandering occurs in around 60 percent of people with dementia. Fortunately, there are a number of tried and true methods for dealing with this phenomenon. Here are a few of the best strategies for dealing with your loved one’s wandering behaviour.

Install Locks and Alarms

Security devices can help keep a person with dementia from leaving home unsupervised.

Motion-sensing devices around the home’s perimeter can be programmed to alert you when someone is leaving the property. Or, simple door locks that lock on the inside can prevent departure by anyone without a key.

Additional helpful security devices to consider include:

  • Pressure-sensitive alarm bells on doormats
  • Child-proof covers on doorknobs
  • Bells or chimes that sound when doors are opened

Conceal or Camouflage Items Associated With Leaving Home

Dementia makes the mind highly distractible. Simply catching sight of certain objects can lead a person towards taking actions they associate with that object, even when it isn’t the right time to be engaged in those activities.

In the mind of someone with dementia, items like keys, purses, wallets, jackets, and shoes are all likely to be strongly linked with leaving home. Seeing items associated with leaving the home may spark a thought chain that results in wandering behaviour.

For example, a person with dementia may see a set of keys on the table. They notice an interesting keychain and pick up the keys to examine it. Then, realising that keys are in their hands, they think, “oh, I must be going out for a drive.”

To avoid wandering behaviour triggered by objects, keep out of sight all items that are strongly linked to going outside. Establish a set of storage locations that the person with dementia won’t come across.

Use a GPS Tracker

red GPS tracker pendant attached to a red lanyard

Despite your best efforts at prevention, wandering may still occur. When it does, it’s critical that you’re able to locate your loved one as quickly as possible.

The best way to keep track of someone who wanders is with a GPS tracker.

GPS trackers for dementia are helpful during all levels of dementia. These devices use GPS satellite technology to keep track of a person’s whereabouts and provide location data to family members or caregivers.

TechSilver GPS Trackers
Battery LifeAccuracyLocation Update Frequency
3 days – Several Months3–30 m of actual locationEvery 1, 10, or 60 minutes

In the early stages of dementia, trackers allow individuals to live independently for as long as possible. They provide a safeguard for difficult moments when an otherwise self-sufficient person loses their way.

For more advanced stages of dementia, GPS trackers ensure that any unsupervised excursions can be concluded promptly and safely. Even when the goal is to never allow the person to leave home alone, a GPS tracker provides an additional level of security.

At TechSilver, we provide GPS trackers that discreetly and effectively keep you informed of your loved one’s location at all times.

Because every case of dementia is unique, we offer GPS trackers in a variety of styles. These include:

Choosing the right tracker device may depend on how advanced the dementia is.

For less severe levels of dementia, a device such as a keyring tracker may be worn with the individual’s knowledge and consent. For more advanced dementia, a discreet shoe insole tracker may be more appropriate.

TechSilver's discreet shoe insole tracker

Here’s what TechSilver customers are saying about our GPS trackers.

“We have been using one of their trackers… It has proved invaluable in keeping tabs on a relative with dementia. I don’t know how people cope without them!”
— Anonymous, ★★★★★ TechSilver GPS Tracker Reviewer

“The tracker is just what we needed and has given us peace of mind knowing that we can track my partner when he is out on his own.”
— Gillian B., ★★★★★ TechSilver GPS Tracker Reviewer

“Tech Silver staff are helpful and friendly… Of all the products I need to manage my husband’s dementia, this is by far the best.”
— Kathleen M., ★★★★★ TechSilver GPS Tracker Reviewer


Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about GPS trackers, visit our GPS tracker buying guide. Click here to view our full inventory of tracker devices. Contact us any time and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

See below for answers to a few of our most commonly asked questions.

What cell signal is used for TechSilver GPS trackers?

GPS trackers use satellites. Additionally, TechSilver GPS trackers operate primarily using mobile signal using a 2G or 3G network. These networks are widespread and provide a connection almost anywhere outdoors. Advanced satellite GPS trackers are also available for use in remote areas.

How accurate are TechSilver GPS trackers?

The location presented by a GPS tracker is typically accurate within 3 and 30 m of the tracker’s exact location.

Does the weather affect GPS tracking?

Major storms or bad weather can sometimes affect the frequency or accuracy of GPS trackers. However, these effects are rare and usually minor. Normal weather events, such as rainy days, don’t typically impair GPS tracker operation.

What is the battery life for GPS trackers?

Most TechSilver GPS trackers have battery lives that range between 1-22 days. Some devices have an average battery length of comfortable over 2 weeks or more. To influence battery life, you can choose how often the device provides location updates, between every 1, 10, or 60 minutes.

Each GPS tracker comes with a free charging cable. Plug in your device to a standard charging port to charge.

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!

Our Latest Product

Waterproof GPS Tracker

Want Free Tech Advice?

Sign up below and join thousands of others getting free tech advice & guidance!

Follow Us

Our Bestselling Trackers for Dementia

Waterproof Dementia Tracker GPS Keyring w/ Extra-Long Battery Life

Dementia Tracker GPS Keyring/Necklace

Dementia Tracker Keyring/Necklace