Department of Health and Human Services

Dementia-Friendly Environments

Wanting to leave

While people with dementia must be safe from possibly dangerous situations, limiting their mobility is counter-productive and does not respect their right to freedom of movement.


  • Respect people’s rights to dignity and freedom of movement.
  • Balance safety with independence.
  • Remember that some people do not want to leave, they want to be sure they are not locked in.
  • Using creativity for apparent exits can produce positive outcomes.
  • Allowing access to secure outdoor areas significantly decreases agitation.
  • Changes to the physical environment can support freedom of movement without risking safety or security.

Strategies Perez et al 2001

  • Gently redirect a person towards other places or activities.
  • As much as possible, keep people with dementia from seeing others leave.
  • Ask staff and visitors to be unobtrusive when leaving.
  • Do not discuss going home when residents are present.
  • Minimise personal restriction and improve stimulation generally.
  • Use décor and fittings to lessen interest in doors and other exit points.
  • Disguise or conceal fences and exit gates.
  • Provide a gate in the outdoor area for people to latch and unlatch.
  • Install a security system.

Disguising exit points

  • Observe fire regulations and do not obstruct the use of any door. Try these simple and creative ways of making doors look less like doors.
  • Paint a mural across the door.
  • Continue window treatments across the door from adjacent windows.
  • Paint the door the same colour as the wall.
  • Continue any wall décor across the door.
  • Continue handrails across doors.
  • Install matching mini-blinds that restrict light and views through exit door windows.
  • Dim lights around exit doors.
  • Remove unnecessary signs from doors.
  • Place a dark floor mat in front of the door.
  • Attach a full length mirror to the door.

Download document

Wanting to leave (pdf, 72kb)