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Dementia Wandering: What Is It, Causes, & Prevention

Dementia Wandering: What Is It, Causes, & Prevention

Has your parent or a loved one been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Dementia is a condition that impacts patients’ quality of life and presents a wide variety of symptoms and safety concerns. One of the most worrisome behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and other types of cognitive decline is dementia wandering. Read on to learn more about the causes of dementia wandering and how it can be prevented.

What Is Dementia Wandering?

Dementia wandering is a common behavior in patients who have forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. When someone experiences dementia wandering, they are prone to leaving home unattended and roaming around. This presents a dangerous situation, as patients can get hurt or lost when wandering.

Causes of Dementia Wandering

The exact cause of dementia wandering is unknown. It is thought to occur in some individuals who are looking for something or trying to get to a specific location. This can include a former job, past home, or other destination that was important to them. Some patients are prone to wandering because they struggle with restlessness and agitation.

The following factors are thought to be linked to dementia wandering:

  • Inability to retain instructions (staying in the house or car, being told to wait, etc.)
  • Agitation or delirium
  • A new routine or unexpected situation
  • A sudden noise or frightening sight
  • Searching for something related to their past
  • The desire to go “home” when in their home already

When your loved one exhibits these behaviors, they may soon begin dementia wandering. While these symptoms can be attributed to other conditions, they are very common in dementia patients who wander.

How to Prevent Dementia Wandering

While it may be impossible to completely eliminate the potential for wandering, there are certain things you can do to prevent it. The following are just a few of the best ways to stop your loved one from dementia wandering.


The best way to prevent episodes of dementia wandering is by providing consistent supervision. Those who are prone to wandering should be monitored by someone at all times. This can be difficult for caretakers, as no one can provide around-the-clock supervision on their own. You will need to set up a split schedule with other caretakers to ensure that someone can provide supervision at all times.

Minimize Leaving

Another way to deal with dementia wandering is to minimize how often you leave home. While this is very difficult, try to take as few trips away from home as possible. This is helpful because patients who are prone to wandering may feel triggered by seeing someone else leave. This makes them feel the compulsion to wander. 

When you do need to leave home, do not make a big deal or draw too much attention to the fact that you are leaving. Try to downplay your absence so that it is less significant to your loved one.

Secure Your Home

One of the biggest ways to minimize dementia wandering is by securing the living space. Doors and windows should be locked at all times. Child-proof locks can help reduce the chances of your parent or loved one getting out of the house. 

Alarm systems can also help address dementia wandering. Having an alarm system in place to alert you when doors or windows open gives you an opportunity to stop a wandering incident before it happens.

Redirect Their Attention

Sometimes patients with dementia begin to wander because they have compulsive feelings. They may feel the need to find something or arrive at a specific location. To help reduce these feelings, you can try to redirect their attention. 

When they start showing signs or indicators of wandering, give them a certain task or activity to complete. This can help take their focus off of wandering away or leaving the house.

Validate Any Fears or Concerns

When patients with dementia begin to wander off, many of them have distinct fears or concerns they are trying to address. They may believe that they need to get to work on time while they are thinking about a former workplace. They may feel like they are trapped in an unfamiliar place when they are actually in their home. 

It is important not to dismiss these feelings. Show them that you understand their concerns and try to ease their worries by reassuring them that they are exactly where they need to be.

What to Do When Dementia Wandering Occurs

If you have a parent or other loved one prone to dementia wandering, it’s important that you know what to do if they wander off. When someone with cognitive symptoms wanders off, there are several things you will need to do right away to ensure that they get home safely. This includes:

Alerting Others

When you realize someone with dementia is lost or has wandered off, immediately alert others around you. They may have seen the patient at a nearby location. They can also help you look for them. There is strength in numbers, and having a larger group searching will help you find them sooner.

Check the Immediate Area

Many senior adults have mobility issues and other physical limitations. When they experience dementia wandering, they may not venture far away from their original location. Make sure to check the immediate area and look in any potential hiding spaces or spots that may be more obscured.

Contact the Authorities

If you do not immediately locate your loved one, you will need to contact the local authorities. They can issue what is called a “Silver Alert” to the surrounding area. This will let the community know that there is an elderly person missing who has cognitive concerns.

Dementia Care Services

Do you have a parent or loved one who experiences dementia wandering? Senior care services can help you manage concerns like dementia wandering and other behaviors associated with cognitive decline. With services like in-home care, your parent can be supervised more closely and prevented from leaving the house. Our caregivers provide clients with a familiar face, and are fully trained to provide dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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