How Communities are Looking out for People How Communities are Looking out for People with Dementiawith Dementia

Among people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, wandering is one of the most common and dangerous behaviors. Six in every 10 dementia patients wander at some point, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, either while walking or while driving a car. In more than 40 US states, police can issue a public Silver Alert when a senior with dementia is reported missing. That gets word out through news outlets, smartphone alerts, and highway information displays.

One city in Japan, meanwhile, is taking an approach designed to prevent the need for Silver-Alert style news bulletins and searches. The Tokyo exurb of Matsudo trains volunteers to spot red flags for wandering, talk to suspected wanderers in a calming way, and summon help to return them safely home. As NPR reported, the so-called Orange Patrol was created in response to rising numbers of Japanese seniors with dementia wandering, sometimes to be found only after days of searching, found dead, or never found at all.

New approaches to helping people with dementia

Pharmacists, postal workers, crossing guards, and other Matsudo residents have learned through Orange Patrol training for look for seniors who are not dressed appropriately for the weather, don’t remember picking up medications, and other clues. Japan has adopted the program nationwide and aims to have 8 million people trained to spot and help dementia patients within the coming year.

In the US, the Dementia Friendly Communities program offers training, support, and community development recommendations to help keep seniors with dementia safe. So far, dozens of US cities and towns have begun using the program, which outlines goals and best practices for housing, banking and financial planning, spiritual life, transportation, emergency response and law enforcement, healthcare, and business.

How you can keep loved ones with dementia from wandering

If you’re caring for someone with dementia at home, it’s important to have help for the times when you can’t supervise directly. An in-home care agency or independent provider can provide companionship and supervision while you sleep, cook meals, run errands, or simply take a few hours for yourself. It’s also a good idea to install chimes on doors and windows to alert you when they’re opened. If your home has an alarm system, you may be able to use it to set up chime alerts. Your loved one should wear a mobile personal emergency response device and wear a medical ID bracelet or pendant, too.

Caring for a person with advanced dementia at home can be an overwhelming challenge that presents real safety hazards for both the patient and caregivers, such as falls, fires, and other accidents. If your loved one needs more direct supervision or a safer environment, a specialized Alzheimer’s care community may be the best option for everyone. These residential facilities are often affiliated with local hospitals or assisted living communities to share resources while offering a secure space and specially trained staff members to care for dementia patients, help them maintain social skills, and manage their nutrition and medications.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia on the blog.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


  1. Jane Moore November 13, 2016 Reply

    So important and good news!

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