Getting lost in dementia: a longitudinal study of a behavioral symptom.
McShane R., Gedling K., Keene J., Fairburn C., Jacoby R., Hope T.
The occurrence of episodes of getting lost was examined in 104 subjects with dementia who were assessed every 4 months over 5 years. All subjects were initially living at home with a caregiver who could give good information. Forty-three subjects needed to be brought back home at least once. Five subjects repeatedly got lost. Forty-six subjects were kept behind locked doors at some point. Subjects who got lost were more likely to become permanently resident in institutions (odds ratio = 7.3; 95% confidence interval: 3.0 to 17.8). Patients who performed better on a behavioral test of topographical memory were less likely to get lost over the subsequent 5 years (negative predictive value: 90%). The risk of patients with dementia getting lost is substantial and requires frequent intervention by caregivers. This risk is a major reason for institutionalization. A simple test may help in assessing the risk of getting lost in patients with dementia.