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 I have dementia Community can help Tools and resources

I support someone with dementia

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Getting prepared Have a plan 
 Wandering and getting lost. Have a plan.

Keeping people with dementia safe doesn't mean keeping them from being active.

  • Have someone go with them on outings. If you’re comfortable with them going out on their own, make sure someone knows where they’re going and checks that they get back on time. Ask neighbours, friends, and family to help out.
  • Know what steps you can take to reduce the risk of them going missing.
  • Provide them with ID jewelry. Enroll them in MedicAlert® Safely Home®.
  • Have a recent close-up photo and a description of them that you can give to police if a search needs to be started. Complete an identification kit. If you wait until they go missing to gather this information, it will delay search efforts and make things even more stressful for you.
  • Consider having them wear an electronic device that will help searchers locate them in an emergency.
  • If they do go missing, call 911 right away. Search is an emergency. Tell police that a person with dementia is missing.

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Wandering and getting lost. Reduce the risk.

The person with dementia you're supporting can go missing no matter how careful you are. But you can use these suggestions to lower the chances:

  • Carry out daily activities. Having a routine can provide structure.
  • Identify the most likely times of day when wandering can happen. Plan activities at that time. Activities and exercise can reduce anxiety, agitation, and restlessness.
  • Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned, or disoriented. If the person wants to leave to “go home” or “go to work,” try not to correct the person. Go with the flow. Say things like, “We’re staying here tonight. We are safe and I’ll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night’s rest.”
  • Make sure all basic needs are met. Has the person gone to the bathroom? Is he or she thirsty or hungry?
  • Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation. This could be shopping malls, grocery stores, or other busy places.
  • Place locks out of the line of sight. Install either high or low on exterior doors and consider placing slide bolts at the top or bottom.
  • Camouflage doors and door knobs by covering them with removable curtains or screens. Cover knobs with cloth the same colour as the door or use childproof knobs.
  • Use devices that signal when a door or window is opened. This can be as simple as a bell placed above a door or as sophisticated as an electronic home alarm.
  • Provide supervision. Never lock the person with dementia in at home alone or leave him or her in a car without supervision.
  • Keep car keys out of sight. A person with dementia may drive off and be at risk of causing harm to self or others.
  • If night wandering is a problem, make sure the person doesn’t drink much two hours before bedtime and has gone to the bathroom just before bed. Also, use night lights throughout the home.

List of tips ©2012 Alzheimer’s Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Funded by the Government of Ontario


Last Updated: 11/08/2017