Door Alarms for Wandering in Alzheimer's and Dementia

Elderly woman walking outside

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If your loved one or patient with Alzheimer's disease or a different type of dementia wanders and attempts to leave your home or facility, one option to increase their safety is to place alarms on the doors. You can also try different locking mechanisms such as a latch up high, but the concern with that strategy is that in case of a fire, the person may not be able to escape safely out of the house.

An alarm can allow the person to attempt exiting through the door but will also alert you to her need for assistance. Alarms can offer you a little support and reassurance in your efforts to ensure your loved one's safety so that, rather than feel that you have to constantly check on her, you know that the alarm will sound if she suddenly wakes and needs assistance.


Protect individuals from elopement and wandering: Whether dementia patients are intentionally attempt lopement or simply wandering around to locate a door, those at risk for exiting without the needed supervision may benefit from a door alarm on the exterior doors.

Alerts others for assistance: Door alarms can also be used on the bathroom door. They can be placed in such a way that they'll sound when the door is opened, letting you know that your loved one or patient requires assistance in the bathroom.


String alarm: A string alarm can be placed high up on the door frame with the string placed across the door opening. If the door opens, it will cause the string, which is held in place by a magnet, to detach from the alarm, causing it to sound. The alarm will stop sounding once the magnet is reattached.

Passive InfraRed (PIR) alarms: A PIR alarm can be utilized across a door opening so that if the plane across the door is broken, the alarm will sound and alert you to your loved one's need for assistance.

Magnetic door alarms: Magnetic door alarms have two parts that are connected magnetically. One part is attached to the door frame right at the edge next to the door and the other part is attached to the door right next to the frame. The alarm sounds when the two parts are no longer connected by the magnet.

Floor sensor alarms: Floor sensor alarms have a sensor pad on the floor and a magnetic lock on the door. They can be preset to different settings, some of which will alarm immediately and other settings that allow a person to exit out the door and return just a short time later before sounding.

Remote sounding alarms: ​Some alarms are designed so that they sound away from the person who is trying to get out the door. You might place the sounding device of the alarm near you so that it doesn't startle the person with dementia but will alert you to their need for assistance. 

Keypad locks: Another option if you have doors in your house that you don't want your loved one to open, you can simply lock them or have a keypad lock installed on those doors. The keypad locks will unlock once you enter the correct number code in the keypad. Keypad locks can connected be to the smoke or fire alarm system so that they will unlock in case of a fire.

GPS alert systems: There are several GPS devices that can assist with keeping your loved one safe. GPS trackers can be used in a variety of ways, such as in shoes. watches and bracelets. You can set up perimeters for when you want to be alerted (such as a doorway) or you can continuously track the person on an app on your phone. These types of systems allow you to have a flexible level of monitoring, depending on your loved one's needs.

A Word From Verywell

As caregivers, one of our worst fears may be that our loved one with dementia will accidentally get lost or purposely leave a house or facility, not be able to find her way back home and then become endangered. Utilizing strategies to prevent wandering, such as understanding the common causes and using door alarms, can hopefully reduce this risk significantly and provide a little more peace of mind.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Au-Yeung WT, Miller L, Beattie Z, Kaye J. Passive infrared motion sensors improved the detection accuracy of nocturnal agitation. Innovation in Aging. 2021;5(Supplement_1):955-955. doi: 10.1093/geroni/igab046.3417

  4. Hall A, Wilson CB, Stanmore E, Todd C. Implementing monitoring technologies in care homes for people with dementia: A qualitative exploration using Normalization Process Theory. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2017;72:60-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2017.04.008

  5. Megges H, Freiesleben SD, Rösch C, Knoll N, Wessel L, Peters O. User experience and clinical effectiveness with two wearable global positioning system devices in home dementia care. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions. 2018;4(1):636-644. doi: 10.1016/j.trci.2018.10.002

By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.