4 Ways to Assist with Wandering Residents

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4 Ways to Assist with Wandering Residents

Posted on November 14, 2012

It is known by many that when working in Long Term Care communities there are many occasions where residents tend to begin to wander. Many of these residents may have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or they may even experience confusion caused by the side effects of “sundowners” with the changing from day to evening. No matter what the cause, wandering has the potential to be dangerous!

Dementia-related wandering can be triggered by a variety of things. It could be caused by insomnia, side effects of medication, the desire for physical or social needs to be met, memory loss, disorientation, and even stress. Unfortunately, with different levels of cognitive impairment that is caused by dementia, we are often times not always able to determine the root cause of the wandering. 

Without knowing the root cause, there are still numerous actions that can be taken to assist in preventing wandering and furthermore, assist in preventing potential injury caused by wandering, and help prevent a resident from potentially getting lost.

Try following these 4 steps to help in ensuring safety and assistance for your wandering residents:

Establish behavior patterns in the resident: Look for patterns in the places the resident wanders repeatedly, what time of day they tend to wander most, and if the resident was engaging in a particular activity prior to wandering.

Validate the wanderer’s emotions: Look for specific expressions, such as worry, anger or anxiety when one begins to wander. Validate their feelings and begin building a sense of trust through asking open ended questions about the way they feel such as “You look worried.” Then offer to help

Distract them from wandering: Try to establish a common goal such as looking for something and walking with them for a bit while steering them towards the goal. Be sure to draw them towards something more positive.

Redirect them once you have distracted them: Once you have gained their attention, redirect them in an assuring manner. For example: “I’m sorry you’re angry. Let’s go check out what programs are going on in Activities.”


Finally, it is very important to keep your wandering residents engaged in Activities or Programs. Try some of these simple Activities that will assist in keeping your wanderers engaged.

  • Item Sorting
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Walks in controlled environments
  • Folding Clothes
  • Molding with Clay
  • Painting
  • Exercising