Emergency checklist for caregivers in case of wandering

Published: Apr 20, 2015

Because people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may become disoriented, wander, or lose their way, spending some time on preparation for that “just in case” scenario is worthwhile. Time is critical once someone has gone missing, and for caregivers, this can be a significant time of anxiety and worry. Being prepared to work with emergency responders can save precious time; ensure that important information is not overlooked; and potentially increase the likelihood that the person is returned home safely.

1. Call 9-1-1

The dispatcher will ask you questions related to the “Missing Person’s Assessment”. This is simply a standard protocol that is done with every missing person report. They will ask whether your loved one would want to hurt themselves; what their mental capacity is, as well as many other difficult questions. Try not take these questions personally. They are not meant as judgement or to imply anything about either you or the person you care for; they are being asked to ensure the authorities have the information they need to conduct an effective search.

2. Answer all questions as accurately & completely as possible

A uniformed officer will most likely be the first to respond. They will have a number of questions that need to be answered. Caregivers have sometimes reported frustration with this; they don’t understand why police officers don’t “just start looking right away” instead of asking questions. In most cases, all on-duty police in the area are made aware of a suspected missing person and they put out a bulletin for the missing person even before visiting the home to obtain all information. But before police officers can be really effective in their search, they need to have a complete understanding and profile of the person they are searching for.

It is difficult to think calmly and rationally while worried about the safety and security of your loved one. Just do your best. You have the ability to provide valuable information for directing the search strategy and helping the search teams find the person as quickly as possible.

3. Be prepared. Have the answers ready ahead of time.

Having the answers prepared ahead of time can help speed up the search process and ensure important information doesn’t get overlooked. This includes a personal profile, photographs of the person and the clothing they wear regularly (jackets, hats, etc.) If possible, keep a paper copy of the information and save a backup on a computer or memory stick.

This questionnaire contains most of the information the police will need. Download it here.

Prevention is always our best strategy. If you don't have a safety plan in place, perhaps now is a good time to consider one. For more information:

Visit our Wandering & Safety section online
• Call the Alzheimer Society of Calgary at 403.290.0110