By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
The journal offers this three-step approach,
developed at Mayo Clinic, to successful redirection.
First, validate the person’s apparent emotional
state. (“You look worried.”) This helps establish
Secondly, join their behavior. A caregiver might
say, “You’re looking for your children? Well, I’m
trying to find something, too. Let’s look together.”
And finally, establish a common goal. Those with
dementia are easier to distract after being treated
as if they are needed, and part of a team. (“Let’s
look over there where those people are having
Looking for the Lost
Even though redirection is a crucial part in
providing care for a loved one with dementia, there
are times the person simply goes missing.
In the “Caregivers Fact Sheet—Wandering in
Dementia” by Meredeth Rowe, RN, PhD, it states that
typically wanderers are found within five miles of
their home. Her research also concludes that 90
percent walk away, five percent drive and very few
use public transportation.
This seasoned nurse says the first step is to
contact law enforcement as 50 percent of the time
this sector is the first to find a lost loved one
with dementia. Then, conduct a search immediately.
The person will NOT return by themselves. Have a
search plan. A friends-and-family network is an
essential tool to have in place, so when the
caregiver is out searching, the police and other
people will have someone by a phone who can inform
the others out looking when news comes in.
“Rapid action is crucial in preventing injuries
and death after you cannot locate your relative,”
says Rowe. “Enlist your family and neighbors to
rapidly search the immediate neighborhood including
yards, sheds and cars, etc. for about 30 minutes.
If you haven’t found the person, call 911 – don’t
wait more than 30 minutes at the most.”
Also, it will not work to predict where they may
wander. As caregivers, knowing why they wander is
one thing, but predicting where they will go is
another. At this point, the person is lost and has
no clue where to head next.
“Most persons with dementia will remain in
populated areas walking in neighborhoods, around or
in businesses, or along roads,” Rowe adds.
“These people are easier to find, although it might
take awhile. A small percentage decide to
seclude themselves in woods, natural areas, or
abandoned buildings and are very difficult to find.
They hide themselves and don’t respond to searchers.
So even though a searcher is near them, they remain
As a caregiver, first get help searching; and
then, get moving!