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."

over 2 years ago, said...

Really creative ideas.

over 3 years ago, said...

Careful with the black mats. A nursing home did this, and one patient was an old farm boy, and what you did was pee into holes. The curtain over the doorway is an excellent way to disguise a door.

over 4 years ago, said...


almost 5 years ago, said...

The black mat idea was helpful. In my own circumstance, I placed a heavy curtain at the entry, he thinks it is a large window and passes right by it.