Desert Living Tip of the Month: Be Kind to Wanderers

One of the biggest challenges for families and caregivers responsible for someone with dementia is when the person wanders off. It is important to plan ahead, so you are prepared in an emergency. It is also good to know what to do if you encounter someone wandering in our community who does not respond to questions about themselves and appears to have dementia.

How to Handle an Encounter in SCSH:

  • If you see a stranger wandering and looking lost, ask basic identity questions and be kind and reassuring to keep the person calm.
  • Call Security and report the incident, then follow the instructions the security officer provides.
  • It is best to remain with the person until Security arrives.
  • If the person offers a driver's license or a card with family contact information, give those documents to Security.

Tips from the Alzheimer's Association to Be Prepared if Your Family Member Wanders:

  • Enroll the person living with dementia in a wandering response service.
  • Ask neighbors, friends, and family to call if they see the person wandering, lost, or dressed inappropriately.
  • Keep a recent, close-up photo of the person to give to the police.
  • Identify potentially dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops, and roads with heavy traffic.
  • Create a list of places the person might wander to, such as former homes, places of worship, or favorite restaurants.

Tips to Take Action When Someone with Dementia is Missing:

  • Begin search efforts immediately and call family and friends for assistance.
  • Search areas the person has wandered to in the past.
  • Consider whether the individual is right or left-handed, as wandering patterns usually follow the direction of the dominant hand.
  • Begin by looking in the surrounding vicinity since many wandering individuals are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.
  • Check local landscapes, such as ponds, tree lines, or fences, as many people are found within bushes or hidden behind trees or outdoor furniture.
  • If you cannot find the person within 15 minutes, call 911 to file a missing person's report. Inform the authorities that the person has dementia.

Our community has many guests visiting during the holiday season, so remember to be kind and helpful if you encounter a stranger with dementia.