We now understand why people with dementia often wander and get lost, thanks largely to work by the winners of last month's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (see Nature 514, 153; 2014). But we still need to help the millions of people worldwide who have damaged navigation systems.
Almost 40% of people with dementia wander (R. McShane et al. Int. Psychogeriatr. 10, 253–260; 1998), and it is a major reason for institutionalization. Fitting people with a tracking device might help (see R. McShane Br. Med. J. 346, f3603; 2013), but this raises ethical challenges (see D. O'Neill Br. Med. J. 346, f3606; 2013). Medication is another quick fix, but merely sedates these vulnerable individuals.
We need to better equip places that have a growing population of disorientated people, including hospitals, long-term care facilities and homes. Strategies such as daily exercise, comforting and distracting coverings for walls and doors, even simply asking individuals what they need, can all help.
Such low-cost, high-touch tactics do not involve pills, side effects or major profit for anyone. Let's start implementing these measures, without getting lost along the way.