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Tips for dealing with wandering

Tips for dealing with wandering

The first thing to do is to try and find out as much as you can about the person and the family. This might give you a clue as to where s/he might go. If the person seems to become restless and tries to leave the house at a certain time every day, maybe this was the time that s/he went to work or went to milk the cows, feed the chickens or fetch the children from school. Maybe the person is going to visit one of her/his children, a friend or relative. Maybe it’s just to enjoy the space and freedom of being outside and not kept in the house. Some people walk just for the pleasure of walking, or used to have a job in which they walked.

  • If the person is leaving or has already left the premises, do not try to force him back as he might become very upset and even aggressive. Walk a short way with him and try and talk him into going back, or distract his attention and gently lead him back. Respect the fact that he also needs space.
  • If it is not possible for him to walk around outside, try to have a room in the house with as little furniture and as few objects in it as possible and so give the person space to move, and let him turn the chairs over or move them around.
  • Giving him medicine to prevent wandering is not a good idea, as it will make the person sleepy and more difficult to care for.
  • It might be necessary for some people to lock the house during the day or night to stop the person from wandering. If the person is locked in during the day as the other people living in the house are at work and there is no-one to look after the person with dementia, make sure that there are no fire hazards. Turn off the stove and hide away gas bottles or anything else that might be dangerous. The person must have water or other liquids and food left out for him to eat during the day. Ask someone in the area to check up on him. If the person with dementia is in a dangerous situation, he must be able to call for help and others must be able to get into the house to help him. It is useful to tell the neighbours or a local shopkeeper about the situation so that they will understand and might offer to watch the house or check on the person for you.
  • If the person does get lost, do not panic. Rather, walk about the neighbourhood and ask people if they have seen him. If you don't find him in your area, report it to the police.
  • When you do find a person who has wandered away, do not get cross with him, shout or punish him. He will already feel very frightened and need to be reassured that everything will be alright because he is now with you. Take him home to familiar surroundings, people and a familiar routine.
  • Try to provide a safe place for the person to wander in, like an enclosed yard or garden with a chair for him to sit on in the shade. Make sure that there are no poisonous plants in the garden that he might touch and may even eat.
  • Tie a bell or a couple of pieces of metal to the doors leading to the outside so that you can be alerted if the person walks out.
  • Try to encourage family and friends to visit the person with dementia so that he doesn't feel the need to go and visit them.
  • It is useful to give the person a piece of paper with your name, address and telephone number on it so that, if he gets lost, he can ask the way to the house or ask someone to phone you. This can also be pinned onto the front of his clothing.
  • A silicone bracelet is available from, a local company, ICE-AID. The name is derived from In Case of Emergency and Assistance in Distress. The bracelet bears a unique member code and the number for the company, which keeps a record of your contact info as well as the wearer's medical details. The service relies on advanced technology and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The cost of subscription is R95 per year. This includes your bracelet, but not delivery. If you buy a bracelet (black, pink or blue) by clicking on this link, Alzheimer's SA will receive a donation of R20 from ICE-AID: