lost in woods

Communicating and interacting with a loved one suffering from dementia can be difficult. But the patient’s safety is the greatest concern, especially if he or she begins wandering — perhaps getting lost — even in familiar territory.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 60% of dementia sufferers wander at some point, making this a source of fear for millions of caretakers with loved ones still living at home. The wanderer may not only become confused; he or she may not be able to communicate with anyone, forgetting their name and address and other vital information. They may not even be properly clothed and won’t have proper identification.


As frightening as the above scenario is, there are products and services that can help keep track of a loved one who may be prone to wander. They range from simple things you can do at home to community services offered by some local law enforcement agencies.

The first step is to try to keep the person from leaving home. Perhaps an additional door lock that is out of sight, disguised, or specially-made to resist tampering, will work in your case. Don’t forget to remove access to cabinets and closets that may contain dangerous chemicals or devices. You can also get alarms that alert someone when doors are opened. Check out alzstore.com for ideas.

Make sure you hide or take away car keys and other keys that could open the door, so to speak, to trouble.

Should your loved one wander off, make sure you have a recent picture of him or her and a description to share with neighbors authorities to aid in finding the wanderer.

Thanks to modern GPS technology, there are devices available that can be worn by the patient so he or she can be quickly located. Sensors can be worn on clothing or around the waist. There are smartphone-like devices that can track your loved one and even communicate with smartphone apps. There are watches and even the SmartSole, an insole for the shoe! Shop at TheoraCare.com, GPSSmartSole.com, and NurtureWatch.com.

There are, of course, “human” options that involve the community in the case of a lost loved one (NOTE: Not all services are available in all locations.). One such option is to outfit him or her with a wristband radio transmitter. This device emits tracking signals that can be tracked by rescue personnel. Visit Projectlifesaver.org and SafetyNetTracking.com to see if they are available in your area.

Lower-tech options include MedicAlert + Safe Return, which consists of a personalized ID bracelet with medical information, a membership number, and toll-free MedicAlert phone number. A call to 911 would begin a search, plus any kind person who finds the wanderer can call that number as well. There is also the Vitals Aware Service that supplies a small beacon that he or she would wear. If someone has the Vitals app, and the patient comes within a short distance of that person, that person would receive an alert and information so they could contact you.

There is no need to feel lost when it comes to caring for a loved one with dementia who may be prone to wandering!

The mission of Bristol House Memory Care is to provide excellent care to residents and offer peace-of-mind to family members. Our vision is to be the memory care community of choice for families affected with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. In the spirit of open communication, we work together with families to create a culture at Bristol House Memory Care based on respect and dignity for all individuals. Our expertise in advanced care practices and commitment to ongoing training ensures that we will provide unsurpassed quality of care.

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