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Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders SAR Research
Wandering Incident: Preparedness


| Home Recommendations | Skilled Care Facility Recommendations |

Despite the best preventative efforts, especially in the home environment, critical wandering may still occur.  Therefore, several steps should be taken to prepare a response plan.  Attempting to decide what to do in the middle of a crisis seldom results in the best actions.  Important part of any preparedness' actions will be registration in Safe Return, completion of a "Wandering Information Sheet," and a careful review and refinement of the wandering response plan.

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Home Recommendations

  • Register the person in the Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return Program
  • Using materials supplied by Safe Return make sure to sew in cloth identification tags (which give name and a number to call to identify the person) in the person's clothing.  If they have a tendency to take your clothing, also sew it in your items.
  • Using materials supplied by Safe Return make sure the Alzheimer's person carries identification.
  • As a caregiver make sure you carry cards (supplied by Safe Return) identifying you as a caregiver.
  • Make sure you have a recent picture of the person (this will also assist in the Safe Return registration process)
  • Develop a Wandering Response Plan. Update the plan at least twice a year. A sample plan is provided on the response page.  Look over this plan carefully.  Make any required modifications.  The value of the planning process is not so much the plan, but the preparation and thinking "what if" that goes into making the plan.
  • If possible, conduct a "missing wanderer" simulation.
  • As part of your wandering response plan be sure to tell your neighbors and/or local business of the person's condition.  Ask them to call the emergency contact (caregiver, secondary contact, 911 etc) if they ever see the Alzheimer's person out alone.  Be sure to provide a copy of a picture if needed.  Keep a list of their names and phone numbers. Ask if they would be willing to help search if needed.
  • As part of your wandering response plan develop a list of alternative transportation sources. Be aware that the person may not only wander by foot but also by car or by other means of transportation.
  • As part of your wandering response plan keep a list of emergency phone numbers and addresses of the local police, rescue squad, fire departments, hospitals, poison control, and Safe Return help lines.
  • Check fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and other safety equipment.  Conduct fire and missing person drills regularly.
  • Complete a "Wanderers Information Sheet" (WIS).  Update this sheet at least twice a year.  Keep a copy of this sheet handy to give to law enforcement. All searches begin with an investigative component.  During this time you will be asked dozens of questions to aid law enforcement and search teams determine where and how to look.  This information is critical to the success of the search.  However, if a caregiver you will be highly stressed.  Completion of this form, before an incident, allows the searching to start sooner and aids in collecting more accurate information.            | Blank WIS (PDF) | Blank WIS (html)

Skilled Care Facility Preparedness

  • Almost all of the home care recommendations may be modified for a skilled care facility
  • Have a current photo of each client
  • Staff notes what each client is wearing each day.
  • Staff intervention when a client or resident appears agitated or "needing to get home"
  • The care plan identified residents with a propensity for wandering away from the facility
  • All clients to wear a badge with their name on the front, and their details (facility name, location, telephone numbers, etc) on the back when attending venues and outings
  • Each day allocate staff member to supervise agitated and/or wandering clients.
  • Count the number of clients at regular intervals.
  • Make sure both paid and volunteers are made aware of clients with wandering tendencies.
  • Provide staff with special training to deal with problems of anxiety and agitation.
  • Provide staff with training regarding security precautions and strategies
  • Assign one staff member on-site with overall responsibility for security
  • Develop a wandering response plan. Update the plan at least twice a year.
  • Complete a wanderers information sheet for each resident.  Update this sheet at least twice a year.  Keep a copy of this sheet handy to give to law enforcement.  

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