Creating an Alzheimer's Wandering Emergency Plan

Creating an Alzheimer's Wandering Emergency Plan

  • April 10, 2018

Wandering is an unfortunate reality when you are caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. As we head in to the spring and summer months, when families enjoy spending more time outdoors, the risk for wandering away from home increases. 

Purchasing a wander alert system, whether it is a GPS tracking watch or pendant, is one way to keep your loved one safe. There are other steps you can take, including learning more about wandering and creating an emergency plan, that may also help.

What Causes a Senior with Alzheimer’s Disease to Wander?

As Alzheimer’s progresses, it causes changes to the brain. The body’s natural circadian rhythms are often disrupted as a result, causing days and nights to become confused. This can keep adults with Alzheimer’s up all night, and make them sleepy during the day. While wandering can happen any time of day, it is especially challenging when it happens at night when weary caregivers are trying to rest.  

An adult with Alzheimer’s might get agitated and restless at sunset. This is a condition known as “sun downing”. It can lead to pacing and wandering.

Other potential causes are believed to be searching for someone or something that looks familiar, as well as unmet needs like hunger or thirst.

How to Create a Safer Environment for an Adult with Alzheimer’s

Here are a few ways you can try to prevent a senior loved one from wandering:

  • Store items that act as “leaving” cues to the senior, such as shoes, boots, coats, keys, and purses, away from exterior doors. 
  • Paint the interior side of the door that same color as the walls to disguise it.
  • Install a home alarm system with chimes that alert you if a door or window is opened.
  • Create and place “Stop” signs on the inside of exterior doors to discourage the senior from trying to exit.

Taking a proactive approach to managing a loved one’s care also means preparing for an emergency, and that includes wandering.

How to Create an Alzheimer’s Emergency Kit

While no one wants to think the worst will happen, it is better to be prepared just in case. We recommend creating an emergency kit and sharing copies with those closest to you and your loved one. Remind them to store it in a secure but convenient location.

Here are a few ideas on what to include in your Alzheimer’s emergency kit:

  • Medical information: Assemble a list of medical conditions, a medical history, medications (both prescription and over the counter), along with contact information for the senior’s physicians. This will be important information for first responders who will be helping with the search.
  • Copies of important documents: Include copies of vital documents, such as a living will and health care power of attorney. Insurance information is also helpful to include.
  • Family information: First responders will need to quickly locate family members if your loved one is found. Make their work easier by creating a list of family contact people and their phone numbers.  

Finally, pack and store a small bag of essentials your senior loved one might need once they are found. Personal care items like a change of clothing, incontinence products, along with a few favorite snacks are good to include.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living

At Five Star Senior Living communities, we know how challenging it can be to keep a loved one with Alzheimer’s safe at home. One solution we hope you will consider is our Bridge to Rediscovery Memory Care Program. We use Montessori-based dementia programming to help adults with Alzheimer’s live their best quality of life.


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