At the Risk of Wandering

wanderer carAt the Risk of Wandering…

Steps to Take To Reduce the Risk

By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW

When, not “IF”

The chance that an individual who suffers from a neurocognitive disorder will wander at least once in their lifetime, is as high as 70% or 7 out of 10. It is essential that we take a proactive stance in educating ourselves on the actions you can take to keep your loved ones safe.

  • The longer a person is missing the lower the chance of survival. When missing more than three days, the chance of survival drops to only 20%
  • It is imperative to act right away when someone is missing! The first 6 hours is the most critical to help law enforcement to find them alive.
  • The state of Florida provides its residents with a program titled the “Silver Alert” to assist law enforcement in rescuing and increasing the potential for recovering a missing person over the age of 60 who has been diagnosed with a deterioration of intellectual facilities such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Provide as Much Information as Possible to Emergency Response Team Members

  • Most Importantly, a Recent Photograph, providing any information regarding identifying marks such as scars or tattoos, etc.
  • Name or “nickname”
  • Age and Date of Birth
  • Their primary language and the language they would respond to
  • When and where was the last time you saw the person
  • What clothing did they have on, (colors are important), were they wearing a hat or glasses, etc.
  • Is the person wearing a medical alert or electronic locator device?
  • What are the results of the initial search by family and friends
  • Has this happened before and if so where was the individual located?
  • Is there a place where the person might go, a familiar landmark or favorite location, church, coffee shop, former workplace?
  • Which door or window would they leave from?
  • Current medication, medical conditions: Do they have a medical condition that might become a dangerous situation if they miss a dose.
  • Does the individual have any fears or dislike of dogs, uniforms, crowds, loud noises?
  • Is he/she likely to walk toward or away from the sun, water, etc.?
  • Does the person have a close friend that might be able to provide more information regarding the individual and the circumstances?
  • If they are driving, provide the vehicle make, model, year and color. The license plate number/letters. How much fuel was in the vehicle?
  • Does the person have a cell phone on them (provide the number), credit cards, cash?

What might be Triggers and Warning Signs

As previously stated it is not a matter of if, for 70% of individuals who are suffering from cognitive impairments, it is a matter of when. Fortunately, there are some triggers to avoid and some warning signs to be aware of in order to reduce the risks related to wandering. Some potential triggers and warning signs include:


  • Keeping Keys, hats, jackets, shoes umbrellas near the exit doors
  • The person’s inability to locate their bedroom, bathroom or room they do most of their activities in
  • Overstimulation – noise, lights, having a lot of visitors
  • Increase in fear, anxiety, agitation
  • Verbalizing a desire to go to work, or go to church, go home (even when they are home)
  • Change in caregivers or new residence, relocation stress
  • Having a conflict with a loved one or family member
  • A change in a physical condition such as an infection, illness, urinary tract infection

Tips to Prevent Wandering

Most people can relate to a time where they had an experience with either being lost or losing someone’s location for a moment in time. The event can bring about deep fear and tormenting anxiety until the person or your whereabouts is located or identified.  The first step in prevention is to be aware of the possibility, and armed with some support from resources and agencies.  Your loved one can find support in you by trying some of the following prevention techniques:


  • Do not try to correct or argue with your loved one’s concerns, try to take the approach of validation
  • Avoid taking your loved one to large crowded, noisy locations, for example, busy shopping malls, large outdoor events
  • Purchase an electronic locator device for your loved one to wear at all times, you can obtain one of them by going to the website
  • Do not leave your loved one alone, in the home or in your car
  • Limit fluids before bedtime in addition to helping them remember to use the bathroom before going to bed
  • Install “soft alarms” to alert you to any exterior doors that are opened, options available at (search alarms)
  • Disguise exit doors with movable screens or murals; install child-proof door knob covers
  • Make sure basic needs are met such as going to the bathroom, hunger, thirst
  • Remove triggers from the home’s exit doors as mentioned earlier, hats, keys, umbrellas, shoes, etc.When individuals suffer from memory impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other neurological disorders their safety is at risk. We can reduce the risk by taking action to love and support those in need.Information provided in this blog was from the resources available by visiting or call 877-404-SILVER

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *