People with dementia getting lost in Australia: Dementia-related missing person reports in the media

Australas J Ageing. 2018 Sep;37(3):E97-E103. doi: 10.1111/ajag.12542. Epub 2018 May 22.


Objective: This study aimed to understand the circumstances in which people with dementia become lost, and the outcomes of these incidents.

Methods: A search was conducted of news articles published in Australia between 2011 and 2015 reporting a missing person with a diagnosis of dementia.

Results: Over the five-year period, 130 missing person cases were reported. The average age of the missing person was 75 years with more men (74%) than women reported missing. Most missing persons travelled on foot (62%) and were last seen at home (66%). The newspaper reports described 92 (71%) of the individuals being found. Of these, 60% were found well, 20% were found injured, and 20% were deceased.

Conclusions: People with dementia are at risk of becoming lost from their homes or health-care settings, and this can have catastrophic outcomes. Care strategies need to focus on promoting autonomy while ensuring adverse outcomes are minimised.

Keywords: becoming lost; dementia; elopement; missing person; wandering.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / mortality
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Transportation
  • Walking*
  • Wandering Behavior*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology