General FAQs

If your loved one is lost, call 911.


Who is prone to wander and become lost?

Any person who can walk and has memory problems or certain developmental disabilities can be at risk for wandering. Some medical conditions can make it more likely that a person will wander. Some examples of these medical conditions are Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, dementia, autism, and people with a traumatic brain injury or who have suffered a stroke.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, problem-solving, thinking, and language abilities to the extent that interferes with daily living. Anything that causes damage to the brain can cause a disruption in the connections in the brain. Symptoms of dementia include short-term memory loss, difficulty locating personal items (purse or wallet), not paying bills on time, forgetting to pay bills, difficulty planning and making meals, forgetting appointments, and wandering. 
* Not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s Disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia (60-80% according to the Alzheimer’s Association). Progressive (it worsens over time), and degenerative (the cells are damaged), Alzheimer’s affects the brain’s ability to function normally. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are short-term memory loss, confusion, disorientation, mood, and behavior changes; suspicion of family & caretakers. It can progress to severe memory loss, forgetting faces of familiar people; difficulty swallowing, speaking and walking.

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States today.

FAQs about Autism and Wandering from the National Autism Association: 

National Autism Association Website

What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

A traumatic brain injury is any injury that has caused damage to the brain. Severe TBIs can cause memory issues.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes uncontrollable movements like shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and memory. Symptoms of Parkinson’s are difficulty walking & talking, mood and behavior changes, sleep problems, depression, memory loss, and fatigue.

What are some general tips to help prevent wandering?

Some actions you can take to help prevent wandering are:

  • Following a routine. Having a daily reliable routine helps provide structure and make a person feel safe.
  • Ensure that daily needs are met. Have they eaten? Are they thirsty? Do they need to go to the restroom? Are they warm enough? These are all things that can cause a person to begin wandering when looking for an item.
  • Secure the environment by having alerts on doors and windows. This can be an alarm system or even a bell that rings when you open a door or window.
  • Affixing locks at the top or bottom of a door to keep them out of the line of sight. This help prevent the person from unlocking doors.
  • Do not lock them in small rooms or leave them in cars alone. This can cause the person to feel uncomfortable and want to leave.
  • Store car keys out of sight. The old adage of out of sight, out of mind is an easy way to begin keeping the person safe.
  • Provide supervision as much as possible, especially in new and unfamiliar environments.
  • Encourage the use of wearable tracking devices. If local law enforcement has a recovery program, the technology is very helpful for locating someone when if they wander.
  • Identify the times of day when they are most likely to wander and plan other activities for that time of day.
  • Encourage regular exercise and physical activities. These activities generally reduce anxiety and restlessness.
  • Provide reassurance of safety when the person is in a new environment. If they are unfamiliar with a place, the person may want to “go home” or “go to work” or see a specific person. An example of this gentle reassurance is: “We are going to stay here for a night. I will stay with you, and we are safe. We can go home tomorrow after breakfast."
  • Avoid crowded and distracted circumstances, if possible. This tends to cause a higher level of anxiety and confusion.
5 quick tips for autistic and developmentally disabled people who may wander

5 Quick Tips for Autistic and Developmentally Disabled People Who May Wander (PDF)

For the Autism population, download the free Wandering Prevention toolkit from the National Autism Association:

Wandering Prevention Toolkit

What do I do if my person has wandered?

The first thing to do if someone has wandered is to call 911 and report a vulnerable person missing. Tell them about any medical conditions they may have, and what medication they are on. 

How long is a missing person report active?

Until the missing person has been found.

What should I do if I see someone who is wearing a tracking device and seems to be lost?

Call 911 and tell them where you are and where the person is, and give them a good description of the person. Tell them that this person is wearing a device. If you feel comfortable talking to the person in question, speak calmly to them and ask simple questions that can be easily answered. Do not try to physically restrain the person to keep them in place.

How can I check to see if there is a wanderer program in my area?

Reach out to your local law enforcement and see what programs they are able to use in your area.

What is meant by “designee”?

A “designee” is an agency or organization that has been approved by local or county law enforcement to join them in a partnership, offering a wanderer program to their community.

Are there currently wanderer programs throughout Colorado?
  • Alzheimer’s association w/ MedicAlert
  • Care Trak International
  • Project lifesaver
  • Angel Sense Colorado
  • LifeTrak
If I am traveling to a Colorado area that offers a wanderer program, who should I preemptively notify to help ensure my loved one can be found if they wander away?

If your loved one has wandered off while traveling, call 911. To prepare for travel, you should notify the program for where the person lives, as well as the program for where you may be traveling. You should also notify local law enforcement for the area where you will be traveling. It would be best to provide estimated dates of arrival and departure from the area as well.

What can I do at home to help keep my loved one here and safe?

Some of the things that you can do to help keep your loved one safe include:

  • Identifying times of the day when your loved one is most likely to wander and have an activity or some exercise planned for that time. Often these are times of day when your loved one seems restless or more agitated than normal.
  • Be aware of your loved one’s triggers, or things that make them more upset and prone to wandering. 
  • Registering your loved one in a wanderer recovery program and equip them with a tracking device.
  • Put alarm chimes or bells on doors to alert you if they open a door.
  • Put tags or write in clothing with their name and a contact number for a caregiver.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors and give them a caregivers contact information. 
  • Ask them to please notify the caregiver if the loved one is found outside alone.

Additional information can be found at the following website: alz.org

What can I do to prevent someone from wandering when we go out?

Some things that can help prevent a person from wandering while you are out include:

  • Dressing them in brightly colored clothing that is easy to spot in a crowd
  • Ensuring that they have an ID bracelet or card on them
  • Plan for extra time during outings and try to keep the conditions quieter. The louder a location is, the more stressful it is for your loved one. This makes them more likely to wander. 
  • Do not leave your loved one alone in a new environment.
  • Ensure that they are supervised and their basic needs are met.
  • Make sure your loved one has had enough to eat and drink and has been able to use the restroom. 
  • Make sure they are comfortable in the environment (warm enough, not too hot, etc.).
  • Additional tips can be found at: alz.org. Tips for traveling: alzheimers.net