Wandering: What is it and tips to prevent it

Wandering is very common for people with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of people with dementia will wander at some stage. Whilst wandering, people with dementia can become confused, disorientated and lost, as they tend to have problems with memory and orientation. This can cause anxiety for their caregivers as they panic and wonder where they may have gone and whether they are safe.

Who is prone to wandering?

Realistically, anyone with memory problems can be prone to wandering. Even those in early stages of dementia can have sudden waves of confusion and disorientation. However, there are some key warning signs which you can look out for.

  • Getting back from their usual walks/drives later than usual
  • Asking to ‘go home’, even if you are already at home
  • Trying to ‘go to work’, even though they no longer work or their schedule has changed
  • Getting lost going to places they visit regularly
  • Finding it difficult to locate familiar rooms in their house, such as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom
  • Increased anxiousness and restlessness, perhaps in the form of pacing

how to prevent wandering

It’s important to remember that wandering can never be completely avoided, and it is likely to happen even if you are the best caregiver in the world. However, there are some ways that you can decrease the chances of your loved ones wandering, and increase the chances of them making it home ok.

Basic needs

Ensure all their basic needs are met: have they gone to the bathroom? Are they hungry or thirsty? Often, they act restless because they are anxious or are unable to express their needs.


Have a routine: having a plan of daily activities can provide structure to their day and avoid feelings of uselessness.


Allow plenty of opportunities for exercise: if your loved one has already had a long walk or played some sport; they are less likely to feel the need for another walk or wander later on.


Use systems that let you know when your loved one is leaving their property: this can be as simple as installing a bell above the door, or as sophisticated as getting a UBEE ZEN tracking device. It’s a real time GPS tracker with a GEO-Fence which allows you to create a virtual fence around your house, or anywhere else they might be staying. If they leave the boundary you created, you will be notified via an app and able to track their location.

Avoid busy places

Avoid busy places: oftentimes busy places can be overwhelming and confusing, causing them to feel extra anxious and disorientated and a desire to escape.


Mirrors on doors: put up full-length mirrors on doors which you do not want to be opened. Seeing an image of another person is often off-putting enough to stop someone with dementia from trying to go through the door.

Key wandering  times

Figure out the key times they are likely to wander: plan activities or entertainment during these times to keep them occupied and distracted. To figure out the times and places they normally wonder, use the UBEE ZEN. The device connects to an app, through which you can look at up to 3 months of historical activity to try and notice patterns in their behaviour.


Reassure your loved one: they may often feel lost, confused and abandoned. Comfort them during these times using communication focused on exploration and validation.