NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Wandering can be a very common and dangerous behavior for people that are living with dementia.

According to a news release, it’s an even greater concern in places where freezing temperatures, ice, and snow can create even more safety hazards.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) wants to help families protect their loved ones by giving out tips to avoid the chances of wandering, and prepare care partners to respond quickly if the loved one does go missing.

“Every family care partner wants to keep their loved one safe, which is why it’s important to take steps to reduce the risks associated with wandering. During the winter, it’s especially important for families living in areas affected by cold weather, snow, and ice,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s director of Educational and Social Services. “being proactive by understanding and addressing the reasons someone may wander, while also having a plan in place in case of an emergency, are the best ways to protect the person’s safety and quality of life.”

Here are four tips for families with a loved one living with dementia.

Address the motivation for wandering

There can be many reasons why someone wants to be outdoors, such as purposefulness, excitement, or pleasure. It could also be a response to excessive stimuli, such as feeling the need to get away from noise or people. But it could be a response to unmet needs, such as being hungry, thirsty, or needing to use the bathroom.

You can always try creating walking paths around the house, engaging them in simple tasks, or offering enjoyable activities. Making sure basic needs are being met can also prevent the chance of them wandering.

Safeguarding the house

You can facilitate safe movement by getting rid of clutter or things that may be tripping hazards. Remember that objects such as car keys, jackets, and purses could trigger the person to want to leave all of a sudden.

You could install electric chimes or doorbells so that when the door opens, someone is alerted. You could also get a smart doorbell with an app that notifies you when someone is coming or going.

Be aware of their patterns

You can provide more stimulating activities during the day when you know they are more active. you can always encourage healthy sleeping habits to avoid the chance of them leaving during the middle of the night.

If they do have a habit of wandering, keep a record of those patterns. Things like how often, how long, and what time of day.

Make a safety plan

You should always keep a list of places the person may go, a recent close-up photo, and medical information easy to get if you need to give them to first responders. You should also have a list of people to contact and ask neighbors to call you if they see your loved one.

AFA’s Helpline can provide additional information by licensed social workers about wandering prevention tips. It’s also available seven days a week by calling 866-232-8484, texting 646-586-5283, or web chat.