Wandering and Alzheimer’s . A board with post its attached and a picture of a may with his chin in his hand.

Alzheimer’s disease can present some very challenging behaviors for the individual and his or her family members. Wandering is one of the potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Dementia can cause disorientation and may lead to wandering often with a specific purpose in mind – like attempting to go to work or searching for the bathroom.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once; many do so repeatedly. Wandering is a term that suggests a person is walking without purpose, whereas they will often have a reason.  A person with dementia might wander for a number of reasons.  Wandering isn’t necessarily harmful but can pose safety concerns.

Here are a few wandering prevention tips to consider:

• Ensure all basic needs are met, including toileting, nutrition, and thrist.

• Alarms – install an alarm on the exterior of the door, so if someone tries to exit the alarm will sound

• Use signage – hang a sign on the door that says “Stop” or “Do Not Enter”. Label rooms in the home for instance, “Bathroom”.

• Use safety gates to prevent access to stairs or the outdoors

When someone with dementia is missing, begin search-and-rescue efforts immediately. Many individuals who wander are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared. The Alzheimer’s Association says if the person is not found within 15 minutes, call 911 to file a missing person’s report. Inform the authorities that the person has dementia.


Alzheimer’s Caregiving – Wandering and Alzheimer’s Disease [Internet]. NIA.NIH.gov. [cited 2021 Aug 24]. Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/wandering-and-alzheimers-disease

Stages and Behaviors – Wandering [Internet]. Alz.org. [cited 2021 Aug 24]. Available from: https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/wandering

Wandering Behavior: Individual Profile [Internet]. https://cdn.upmc.com/-/media/upmc/services/seniors/resources-for-caregivers/documents/wandering-info-sheet.pdf

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