How to deal with dementia-related wandering


If you have a loved one with dementia, you may be faced with the challenge of them wandering away from their home or where they should be. To make things more stressful for families and carers, people with dementia who wander are often unable to communicate where they went or why, because of their failing memory or declining ability to communicate. 

Wandering is a common trait of people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If this is something you’re dealing with, you’re not alone. Over 400,000 Australians are currently living with dementia, and over 1.5 million Australians are involved in their care, according to Dementia Australia. 

Wandering can pose several risks for seniors with dementia, including: 

· becoming lost, confused, or disoriented

· having an increased risk of accidents, injuries, or falls

· being in dangerous situations, such as crossing busy roads or entering unfamiliar homes or buildings

· being exposed to nutritional deficiencies, exhaustion, dehydration, and exposure to extreme weather conditions. 

Williams Landing Aged Care residence facility manager Nithin Shetty provides some tips for those still caring for loved ones living with dementia at home.

“Coping with a loved one’s dementia and managing their tendency to wander can be a challenge for carers.”

“But by understanding the early signs and implementing preventive measures, it is possible to minimise the risks associated with wandering until you can find additional support.” 

Tips include:

1. Establish a safe environment free from hazards. 

2. Create routine and familiarity to help reduce anxiety and restlessness.

3. Provide reassurance, staying calm and helping your loved one to settle. 

4. Provide opportunities for engagement, with meaningful activities throughout the day.

5. Make identification and communication easy, with a wearable bracelet or pendant with

your contact information.

6. Identify ‘challenging’ times of the day, and schedule activities to keep your loved one busy

at that time.

7. Ensure basic needs are being met, including easy access to a toilet, food and drink. 

8. Provide supervision and support, especially during periods of increased agitation or