Wandering is a common behavior among people with Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander. This behavior is dangerous regardless of what stage of the disease they are in. The longer they are missing, the greater their risk for serious injury. This makes wandering a concern for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
While no one knows for sure what causes adults with Alzheimer’s to wander, there are a few common triggers. Here are some scenarios that can lead to wandering, along with a few ways Michigan caregivers can prevent it.
Why Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander
Feeling disoriented is one of the most common reasons why people with Alzheimer’s wander. Their cognitive impairment can make them forget where they are and what they are doing. Wandering is their way of dealing with the anxiety caused by feeling displaced.
Here are a few ways you can reduce feelings of disorientation:
- Stick to a routine to reduce the likelihood they will forget what they are doing.
- Limit the amount of stimuli to prevent them from getting distracted.
- Keep them in familiar settings to prevent them from feeling displaced.
Another common reason why adults with Alzheimer’s wander is because they are bored. When adults with Alzheimer’s don’t get enough stimulation, they get the urge to get up and move. Wandering is just a way of finding relief.
To prevent boredom, try:
- Having them help you with simple household chores like folding laundry or organizing papers.
- Finding activities to keep them busy like knitting or coloring.
- Keeping them engaged through conversation.
- Lack of Physical Activity
Sometimes, people with dementia wander because they don’t get enough exercise. Wandering is their way of burning excess energy.
Here are few ways you can help your loved one burn extra energy:
- Incorporate a walk into their daily routine.
- Accommodate their desire to move by having them sit in a rocking chair.
- Introduce them to a stationary bike where they can exercise in place.
- Trying to Fulfill Basic Needs
Adults with Alzheimer’s can also wander in efforts to fulfill their basic needs. The need to eat, drink, or use the bathroom can be triggers.
A simple way to reduce this reason for wandering is to check that their basic needs are met periodically throughout the day.
- Occasionally ask them if they need to use the bathroom.
- Bring them a snack if you notice they haven’t eaten in a while.
- Make sure they always have a glass of water nearby.
- Unfamiliar Environments
A change in environment can also trigger wandering. Many families notice their loved ones wander after they move to a new home or visit a new location.
Here are a few tips to prevent wandering in new environments:
- Try to plan short day trips as opposed to overnight stays.
- When going out to eat, go to familiar restaurants.
- Make sure someone they are comfortable with is around at all times.
Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities
If you are concerned about your ability to prevent your loved ones from wandering, you may want to consider assisted living. Many communities, including Heritage, have specialized dementia care communities that are designed to prevent residents from wandering. Contact us to learn more about how we help keep seniors with dementia safe.