Keep your loved one safe

Despite your best efforts, it might be impossible to completely prevent wandering. Consider these techniques to accommodate wandering and keep your loved one safe:

  • Reduce hazards. Remove tripping hazards, such as throw rugs and extension cords. Install night lights to aid nighttime wanderers. Put gates at stairwells to prevent falls.
  • Provide a place to wander safely. If wandering isn't associated with distress or a physical need, you might want to focus simply on providing a safe place for walking or exploration — such as a path through the rooms of your house or a circular trail through a fenced backyard.
  • Install alarms and locks. Various devices can alert you that your loved one is on the move. You might place pressure-sensitive alarm mats at the door or at your loved one's bedside, put warning bells on doors and use childproof covers on doorknobs. If your loved one tends to unlock doors, you might install sliding bolt locks out of your loved one's line of sight.
  • Camouflage doors. To short-circuit a compulsion to wander into off-limits rooms, you might place curtains over doors or camouflage doors with paint or wallpaper that matches the surrounding walls. A mirror or a stop sign on the door might help, too.
  • Use a GPS device. Consider having your loved one wear a GPS or other tracking device that can send electronic alerts about his or her location. If your loved one wanders, the GPS device can help you find him or her quickly.

Ensure a safe return

Wanderers who get lost can be difficult to find because they often behave unpredictably. For example, they might not call for help or respond to searchers' calls. Once found, wanderers might not remember their names or where they live.

If you're concerned about your loved one's wandering, inform your neighbors and other close contacts about your loved one's condition. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy in case you can't find your loved one. Keep a recent photo of your loved one on hand, too.

Also consider enrolling in the Alzheimer's Association safe-return program. For a small fee, participants receive an identification bracelet and access to 24-hour support in case of emergency.

If your loved one is lost, contact local authorities and the safe-return program — if you've enrolled — right away. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner your loved one is likely to be found.

Aug. 04, 2012 See more In-depth