The family who is caring for a loved one who is a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease in their own home, has to be ready to deal with a variety of difficult behavioral tendencies. One of these traits is wandering.

There are specific precautions that you can take to avoid your loved one from getting lost.

You need to understand that the Alzheimer victim has the inclinations of a little child. They are easily distracted by anything that catches their eye- bright colors and delightful sounds that will soothe their soul. They will also revert to habits they formed in their younger years such as jobs and chores and may leave your presence in order to fulfill their “obligations”.

There may other reasons they wander as well. They may be trying to handle the stress of their environment, which they may view as being noisy, crowded, isolated, or unpleasant. They may go out in search of such basic needs as food, water or a bathroom and have simply lost their way trying to find them. They may be trying to find familiar faces, objects surroundings or companionship. Maybe they have misinterpreted certain sights or sounds as being life threatening or frightening.

Whatever the reason(s), it is especially frustrating and irritating for caregivers but it can soon become more than that when the AD victim moves into an unsafe or unhealthy area or climate, puts others at risk or invades another persons property.

There are steps, which can be taken to avoid irreversible and dangerous situations.

1) Encourage exercise and walking in a safe, secured area.

2) Survey your area for possible hazards such as a pool, busy roadways they could wander out into, tunnels, dense foliage, steep stairways, high balconies, bus stops, the absence of fences or gates and unbolted entryways in your home.

3) Use nightlights, cue signs and familiar objects to help them move around the house safely.

4) Make sure they were something to identify them each day. For example, a necklace with a plate that tells their address, phone number and name and mental/medical condition. They can have their ID on their shoes, glasses or dentures. Always be aware of what they are wearing each day.

5) Keep a list of your neighbors names and phone numbers and let them know that your loved one may wander and to keep an eye out. Ask them to gently lead your loved one back home if they see them out alone. Explain to them how to do this without arousing them to combativeness or promoting a catastrophic emergency.

6) If your loved one is missing, begin to look for him close by. Call his name, inform the neighbors and ask them to help you look. Call the police and fire departments. When you locate him, approach him with calmness and gentleness. Do not scold him. He was on a mission, remember? Have a nice leisurely walk back home.

With a few precautions, you can “Alzheimer-proof” your environment, make it safe for your loved one to thrive in and provide yourself with a great peace of mind. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Starr Calo-oy


  • Along with her husband, Bob, Starr Calo-oy has cared for the elderly in their home as an alternative to nursing home care, for the past 15 years. They specialize in Alzheimer's disease and the other related dementias, the terminally ill and the general elderly public.

    This couple discovered that the primary obstacle preventing families from turning over the care of their loved ones to a stranger for care, was guilt. After 15 years of personal family interviews, they have written "The Caring Caregivers Guide to Dealing with Guilt" to help families make this heart-wrenching decision.