Healthy Living

The Challenge of Wanderers: What Should Caregivers Do?

Calling the police

Robert J. Koester, a search and rescue instructor for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, recommends alerting authorities within 15-20 minutes of realizing that the person has wandered. Though family, friends, and caregivers can attempt that first search on their own, if their results are unsuccessful the best thing to do is call for help.

“[15 to 20 minutes] seems to be the sweet spot, and it’s going to seem like an extremely long 15 to 20 minutes,” Mr. Koester explained. You don’t want to “burden law enforcement” by calling immediately, but waiting too long makes their search efforts exponentially more difficult. Waiting hours, instead of minutes, is a huge difference, and a mistake.

In addition to calling the police, a report should be filed with the Alzheimer’s Association MedicAlert + Safe Return program. After reporting a wandering incident to the 24-hour help line, a “community support network will be activated,” to assist the efforts of the other emergency personnel.