People with dementia may have difficulty remembering routes and directions. They are prone to get lost.
Local research1 shows that the probability of people with dementia in the community getting lost or going missing is 30%. More than half are found over an hour later. Nearly 10% of the missing have bodily injuries when found, and 30% were frightened in the incident. Over 40% of family members worry that it may happen again. Getting lost will put people with dementia in danger, and their family members under tremendous pressure, making it vital to have prevention measures and community support in place.
1 Kwok, T. C., Yuen, K. S., Ho, F. K., & Chan, W. M. (2010). Getting lost in the community: a phone survey on the community‐dwelling demented people in Hong Kong. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 25(4), 427-432.
How to evaluate if your loved one with dementia is at risk of getting lost?
Has been out longer than usual, such as taking much longer to get home
Forgotten how to go to familiar places, such as restaurants or markets he/she often goes to
Forgotten how to return to where he/she had just been, such as unable to find his/her table at a restaurant after going to the toilet
Unable to state his/her correct home address
Confused about the location of the bedroom, bathroom or living room at home
What to do if a family member has gotten lost?
- Stay calm
- Check the position locating device(if used)
- Find the prepared personal characteristics information pack, including photos and up-to-date information
- Report to the police and share the personal details with the police
- Ask for help on “lost persons platforms” or social media platforms
- Search nearby with his/her photo
- Ensure one family member stays home, so that there is someone to answer the door and take care of the situation if the lost family member return
- If the family member with dementia left from home, contact the building’s management office to check if they have any clues
- Try looking at former home(s), or places he/she often goes to, or the old workplace(s)
- Provide the lost person’s octopus card number to public transportation companies to get assistance
- If the lost family member is not found after a long time, he/she may feel hungry, so try places where he/she can find food and drink
After recovering the lost family member
- Pacify him/her
- Avoid blaming
- Avoid asking too many questions about why he/she got lost
- Take him/her back to a familiar environment, away from crowded places, for some rest
- Cancel the lost person report on all platforms or with organisations that were helping with the search
- Provide water and food, and check his/her health
- If he/she shows discomfort or injuries, seek medical help
- After adequate rest, find out why he/she was lost, and try to prevent it from happening again
How to prepare to prevent it from happening
- Modify your home:
A. Install door sensors to sound alerts when he/she goes out
B. Put door lock higher or lower, so it’s not as easy to reach
- Wear items with family members’ information:
A. Bracelets or nameplates
B. Stickers on mobile phones
C. Embroider information onto clothing, such as the collar or inside of a jacket
- Use technology
A. Use position locating devices
B. Input his/her information into the platform of lost people , such as the “Dementia’s Secret Angel” mobile app
- Record caregivers’ contact information as follows, in the phone or note book of the people with dementia, to get quick assistance when needed:
A. Name list and telephone numbers of family members or relatives who can help
B. Octopus card number
C. Places he/she often goes to, such as address of old home(s) and previous workplace(s)
D. Update his/her photo every six months, and prepare a personal trait information pack
- Ask neighbours, regularly visited shops and building’s security guards to keep an eye on him/her.
Proper arrangement of
Outdoor activities are good for seniors’ well-being, and help them relieve stress, as well as enhancing the joy and quality of living. However, some caregivers limit or even ban their care persons from going out due to concerns about accidents. While such concern is understandable, when the situation permits, the following arrangements can make life better:
- Maintain a fulfilling and routine lifestyle, e.g. arrange visits to elderly centres or day-care centres to take part in activities
- Accompany him/her to go out regularly and encourage him/her to join community activities
- If he/she has been lost a number of times, it is advisable to find out why he/she goes out often, and make arrangements accordingly
- When he/she goes out, caregivers can consider accompanying him/her and keeping him/her within sight.