How Do I Keep my Dad From Leaving the House at Night?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My Dad has moderate-severe dementia. He is 80 and lives with my mom. They have a caregiver during the day but not at night. Most nights are fine, but twice he has left the house in the middle of the night and my Mom could't find him. There is an alarm that sounds as soon as he leaves the house. Usually that will scare him into coming back inside, but twice he has left and wandered outside where he has fallen nearby. Mom called us right away and we were able to get over there and find him fairly quickly and so far he has not had any major injuries (scrapes, a sore wrist.) But the experience was very traumatizing (especially for my Mother) and potentially very dangerous. They live in a wooded area, so I know he would not be able to make it to a main road before we got there. Of course that makes it easier for him to trip and harder to find him when he falls.

We've been tempted to internal deadbolts that can only be opened with a key, but we know that poses a fire hazard. Is there anything that we can do? Is there any kind of lock available that would be too complicated for my Dad to open but that my arthritic Mom could still open? Any suggestions?

Expert Answer

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Keeping Alzheimer's patients that wander safe can be a challenge. In your situation, the answer can be found on the internet at

They have locks that will prevent your dad from opening the bedroom door and be easy for your mom to use and operate.

Best of luck.