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Wandering Concerns in the Winter Weather for Those with Early Stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Updated: Apr 3

One in six people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander or become lost, some multiple times. Wandering outside in the winter can pose a serious threat in frigid, icy temperatures and can even turn fatal.

Once a person with the disease loses their executive functioning, it makes it harder or

impossible to retrace their steps. Sundowning, which is a confusion that happens once

the sun goes down earlier in the winter months, can increase the risk of wandering.

Individuals that are wandering typically have a specific destination or purpose like fulfilling their former obligation of going to work, or going “home” even though they are already home.

For individuals in the early stage of the disease and their care partners, the following strategies may also help reduce the risk of wandering or getting lost:

  • Decide on a set time each day to check in with each other.

  • Review scheduled activities and appointments for the day together.

  • If the care partner is not available, identify a companion for the person living with dementia as needed.

  • Consider alternative transportation options if getting lost or driving safely becomes a concern.

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests using the Medic Alert and Safe Return Program. The person with dementia can wear a medical bracelet with contact information if they ever are lost.

They also recommend enrolling in a "Wandering Support Service” in case of an emergency.

If Someone Becomes Lost

If a person becomes lost and is not found within 15 minutes, call 911 to file a missing person’s report. Inform the authorities that the person has dementia.

A person with dementia or Alzheimer’s who isn’t found within 24 hours, has a nearly 50% chance of suffering a serious injury or death if not found. Those chances increase if it is cold and dark.

Some Good News for Ohio Residents as of 1/3/23:

According to the Ohio Public Policy office, the Alzheimer’s Association of Ohio has worked with state legislation to put through House Bill 23 to provide dementia training to police, firefighters, state troopers and EMS personnel so they are prepared to identify signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia and are equipped to provide those individuals and their families with the care they deserve. It has been approved by the Senate and will become state law.

Insight Clinical Trials is one of the leading independent research institutes in Northeast Ohio. With our patients and their families as our first priority, we are dedicated to safe research specializing in mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurological disorders. Contact us to learn more.


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