Dementia Patients And Wandering

dementia patients and wanderingAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, six of every 10 dementia patients will wander.  When they do, their lives are at risk.   And yet, how many of you caregivers of (elderly) dementia patients are prepared to deal with the reality of this dangerous potential?

Too often, I hear a statement like “Well dad hasn’t tried to wander off yet, so we don’t need to worry about that right now.”  The problem is that there’s no way to know when dad will wander off.  It makes sense to be proactive to prevent wandering rather than wait for disaster to strike.


A recent story in the LA Times reported a 92-year-old dementia patient whose family was in denial about the possibility of him wandering.  When he did, he was lost for nearly 24 hours.  The story had a happy ending when he was found, tired, hungry and dehydrated, but safe.  Sadly, not all of the stories end that way.

In this case, the family was convinced that even though their loved one was suffering from dementia, he wouldn’t wander.  They all went to dinner in a large restaurant and let him go to the restroom alone.  He didn’t come back. “He kind of has dementia,” said one of his relatives.  “He might not have remembered that he was with us or where he was.”

Oh brother.  Without dealing with the denial of reality (in those statements), let’s just focus on the fact that as a person with dementia, he has significant short-term memory loss.  He can be easily confused in surroundings where there are large groups of unfamiliar people.  Obviously he couldn’t remember he was with family in the large and unfamiliar restaurant.  And likewise, he didn’t know where he was… so he went in search of “home.”

He kind of has dementia – Family member of wandering dementia patient

Don’t wait until something like this happens to your loved one.  Take action now.

The Alzheimer’s Association (1-800-272-3900) has some terrific information to help you make sure your loved one will stay safe.  In addition, there are now tracking devices, smartphones, dumb phones, and apps for seniors that can be tracked from your smart phone, tablet or computer.  Type “tracking devices for dementia patients” into your search engine and you’ll be amazed at the number of products that are available.

Blessings, Joanne

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