60 percent of people with dementia-related memory problems become lost at some point

For many people, getting lost happens without warning. Familiar surroundings may suddenly become strange to them. They get disoriented and are unable to find their way home.

Becoming lost isn’t just distressing; it can be dangerous. Half the people with dementia who go missing for 24 hours end up seriously injured or dead.

That’s why it’s so important that we offer assistance when we come across someone who seems lost or confused and for families to be prepared.

If you work directly with seniors or missing persons, this information is especially critical.  

Know the signs

The person may be:

  • Inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Standing still looking around for a long period of time
  • Pacing
  • Looking confused or disoriented
  • Repeating the same question or statement within a short period of time

Know what to say

  • Speak slowly and calmly
  • Loudness can convey anger; avoid the assumption that the person is hearing impaired
  • Use short, simple words
  • Ask “yes” and “no” questions
  • Ask one question at a time, allowing plenty of time for response. If necessary, repeat the same question using the exact wording
  • People with dementia may only understand a part of the question at a time

Know what to do

  • Approach the person from the front
  • Identify yourself and explain why you’ve approached the person
  • Maintain a calm environment
  • Move slowly; maintain eye contact
  • Avoid confrontation
  • Avoid correcting or “reality checks”
  • Call police (911) for help returning the person home safely
  • Wait with the person until the police arrive

When you find someone with dementia who is lost

  • Look for a body-worn blue MedicAlert Safe and Found bracelet
  • Read the vital information on the back of the bracelet


If you would like to learn more, or if you work closely with missing persons or people with dementia, we offer 4 short online learning modules that take a deeper look at what you can do to help keep people with dementia safe. Learn more about our Online Learning modules here.

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