4 Creative Ways to Stop Wanderers in Their Tracks

Wandering by someone with dementia can sap caregivers' patience. Some of the solutions families have come up with to curb this roaming tendency reflect "out-of-the- box" thinking -- but, for the right individual, they can really work.

Consider these four creative solutions:

  • "Dig" a black hole. Try placing a black mat right in front of the door. Because of impaired depth perception, the black square is perceived as a hole or pit, making the person with dementia reluctant to step there. (Conversely, remove dark mats or throw rugs in front of the bathtub and toilet.)

  • Disguise a doorway. Cover a door with a poster of an outdoor scene or a faux window. Your loved one may perceive it as an actual window, rather than a doorway.

  • Install a dummy lock. Leave the regular door lock at the height of the knob. Chances are, your loved one knows how to open it. But then install a separate lock at a higher or lower level. The habit to look in one place may be so ingrained that your loved one might not look higher or lower. Or he or she may see the lock but be dissuaded after one or two unsuccessful attempts to open it.

  • Create an imaginary bus stop. This idea comes from a German senior center but could possibly be replicated with circumstances that meet your loved one's need. Some of its residents felt they had to leave the center to go and wait for a bus. Rather than try to dissuade them, staff at the center installed a replica bus stop in an enclosed, safe yard. The users' long-term memories told them that if they waited long enough, a bus would eventually take them home -- so they'd go and sit on the bench there, and calmly wait for the "bus."

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio