People suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are prone to wandering, which can be extremely dangerous for the person and very worrisome for caregivers.
There are different reasons for wandering including boredom, fear, searching for something or trying to find a place from their past such as work or a childhood home.
Regardless of the reason someone wanders, caregivers should learn to identify the signs of wandering and know how to keep their loved one safe.
Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Wandering
While not all wandering can be prevented, picking up on cues can often stop wandering before it starts. Watch for signs such as:
- Has To Be Somewhere – A person who insists it is time to go to work or pick up a child from school could be moments away from walking out the door
- Boredom and Restlessness – Someone who isn’t getting enough exercise or stimulation can begin wandering simply to find someone to talk to or something to do
- Needing To Find Something – When someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia starts looking for a specific object or person they may wander off to find it
- Basic Needs – Consider your loved one might be wandering simply because they want a drink of water at night or need to use the restroom
Pay attention to these cues and note the time of day. You may see a pattern emerge.
Once you identify the signs of wandering you can make a plan to control the behavior more effectively and diffuse the situation.
If you notice wandering is happening during certain times of day plan an activity beforehand such as going for a walk together, playing cards or working in the garden.
You communication style can also make a difference. If dad becomes restless and decides it is time to leave for work don’t argue with him or remind him he retired years ago. Instead try validating his feelings and re-directing him to another activity. For example say “you’ve always been such a hard worker” then ask if he will help you fold the laundry. Or acknowledge his need to get to work then ask him to tell you about his job. Talking about the memories might be all that is needed.
If wandering at nighttime is a problem make sure your loved one uses the restroom before bed or keep a spill proof cup of water next on the nightstand. This may prevent wandering to the restroom or kitchen during the night for a drink of water.
Keep Them Safe From Wandering
Getting ahead of wandering behavior is important, but there additional safety measures you can take to keep your loved one safe.
- Place locks high on the door or low to the ground where they are not in the person’s line of vision
- Use childproof door knob covers or disguise the door by hanging a curtain over it or painting the doorknob the same color as the door
- Keep trigger items like car keys and shoes out of sight
- Create a safe place for wandering in the house or secure backyard free of trip hazards like cords or tree roots
- Install a security system that alerts you when a door is opened, or simply place a wind chime or bell on the door
- Consider an ID bracelet or a GPS monitoring system such as Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return
About The Memory Center
Founded as the first assisted living facility devoted specifically to memory care, our program and communities are custom designed to meet the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community.
We support not only our residents, but also their families encouraging them to stay involved and ask questions so they can rest easier knowing their loved one is safe, happy and receiving care they can feel good about. Contact us for more information or read more about a typical day at The Memory Center.