Caregiver Tips



10 Ways to Prevent Wandering (Part 1: 1-5)

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein, MD


Wandering is a risk associated with many conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and dementia (which can result from Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, head injuries, and Parkinson’s disease).

Whatever the condition, the anxiety for caregivers is the same. It can become overwhelming. You may jump out of bed at every creak in the night, worried that your mom has walked out of the house. You may no longer take your son with autism to the mall, because losing sight of him for even a split second is so terrifying. You may not live with the loved one, so you may need a tracking service that will alert you when he has left his home unattended.

Of course, no one can watch another person every second of every day. We’re only human, and even the best and most dedicated caregiver can’t fully prevent wandering. But by following some of the tips below, you can boost your loved one’s safety. What’s more, you can feel a lot more confident and a lot less anxious.

  1. Secure your home. To prevent wandering, you may want to install new locks on your doors and windows that your loved one can’t open easily. If you can put them high up, they’re less likely to be noticed or reached. Depending on your situation, you may also need to install bars on windows. Buying motion detectors can alert you when someone opens an outer door. A simpler solution to prevent wandering: Hang bells on the doorknobs.
  2. Make sure the person always carries ID. It won’t prevent wandering, but making sure your loved one has ID at all times is crucial. Keep in mind that keeping an ID in a person’s wallet isn’t enough, because he could remove it, either deliberately or accidentally. Medical ID jewelry – like a bracelet or pendant – is a good idea. You could also consider sewing identification into your loved one’s jacket. Another option: temporary tattoos. They’re available in kits and give basic information about the person’s health condition, along with space for your phone number.
  3. Dress your loved one in bright clothing. If it’s reasonable and your loved one doesn’t mind, consider dressing her in clothing that’s easy-to-see from a distance. This can be a good way to prevent wandering if you’re planning to be in a crowd.
  4. Put up a fence. It can be expensive, but putting up a fence – with secured gates — can prevent wandering while allowing your loved one a way to get some fresh air.
  5. Use radio tracking devices. Bracelets or other jewelry with radio transmitters can be a big help. Some are short-range and designed so that caregivers can monitor the person themselves. Some sound an alarm on both the bracelet and a base unit when the person gets too far away. Others are services that charge a monthly fee and use devices to pinpoint the person’s location. The company can track her and will work with local law enforcement, or the organization Project LifeSaver, to get her back to you.