Wandering is a common and potentially dangerous behavior in seniors with dementia, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience confusion, disorientation, and a desire to return to a familiar place or time, leading to wandering episodes.
This behavior poses risks such as falls, injuries, and getting lost. It’s crucial for caregivers and family members to implement proactive dementia care measures to prevent and manage this behavior.
A comprehensive approach that combines environmental modifications, memory care programs, and supportive technologies can significantly enhance the safety and well-being of seniors with dementia. Keep reading to find out more.
Understanding the Causes of Wandering
Before delving into preventive strategies, it’s essential to understand the underlying causes of wandering in seniors with dementia. This will help you empathize a bit better with your ward.
Wandering can result from various factors, including:
Seniors with dementia often experience confusion and may lose their sense of direction. This could lead them to wander aimlessly as they try to find their way back home.
Feelings of restlessness or the need to stay active can drive individuals with dementia to wander in search of stimulation or engagement. Boredom can be a big motivator in the case of wandering.
Wandering may be a response to unmet physical or emotional needs, such as hunger, thirst, pain, or loneliness. Dementia patients are searching for something and that’s why they wander.
Attempting to Fulfill Past Routines
Some seniors may attempt to fulfill past routines or habits, such as going to work or picking up children from school. This contributes to wandering behaviors.
Wandering is often more prevalent during the late afternoon and evening, a phenomenon known as sundown syndrome, which is common in individuals with dementia. That’s why it’s important to pay more attention to your ward during this time.
Practical Strategies to Prevent Wandering
Now we get to the gist of it all. How can you, as a caretaker of a dementia patient, make sure that they don’t wander? It can be dangerous for them to be out there in the world without any caretakers around.
Here are some crucial steps to take.
Secure the Living Environment
Create a safe and secure living environment by installing locks, alarms, and other safety features. Use door chimes, sensors, or even electronic locks that can be monitored remotely to alert caregivers when a door is opened.
Ensure that the senior has proper identification, including their name, address, and contact information. This information can be sewn into clothing or provided through wearable identification devices.
Establish Routine and Structure
Establishing a consistent daily routine can help seniors with dementia feel more secure and reduce the likelihood of wandering. Include regular meal times, activities, and periods of rest in the daily schedule.
Supervision and Companionship
Maintain close supervision, especially during high-risk periods like sundowning. Having a companion or caregiver present can provide reassurance and reduce the likelihood of wandering.
Use Visual Cues
Utilize visual cues to help seniors navigate their living space. Consider using color-coded signs or pictures to indicate important areas like the bathroom or bedroom.
Engage in Meaningful Activities
Keep seniors engaged in activities that stimulate their mind and body. Meaningful activities can reduce restlessness and the desire to wander in search of stimulation.
Play board games, or work on puzzles together. Or you could read a book together and chat about it. There are many ways to ensure your loved one with dementia doesn’t get bored and start wandering about seeking a more interesting experience.
Encourage regular physical exercise. This not only promotes overall health but also helps manage restlessness, increases relaxation, and reduces excess energy. Pick an activity that your loved one likes, and then focus on that.
Fenced Safe Spaces
If applicable, create a secure outdoor space with fencing to allow seniors to enjoy the outdoors safely. This can provide a sense of freedom without the risk of wandering into unfamiliar territory.
Always ensure you lock these fences when you go out to perform chores or to work.
Use GPS Tracking Devices
Consider using GPS location tracking devices that can be discreetly worn by the senior. These devices allow caregivers to monitor the individual’s location and receive alerts if they leave a designated area.
Implement Memory Care Programs
Enroll seniors in memory care programs that provide specialized care and activities tailored to individuals with dementia. These programs offer a supportive environment and help address the cognitive and emotional needs of seniors.
Regular Health Checkups
Schedule regular health checkups to address any underlying health issues or medication side effects that may contribute to dementia wandering behaviors. This will also ensure you that their condition isn’t worsening over time, which could be a possibility.
Educate Caregivers and Family
Maybe you aren’t the only one taking care of the patient with dementia. Then, it’s important to provide education and training for all caregivers to manage wandering behavior. This includes recognizing triggers, communication strategies, and implementing preventive measures.
Consider Assistive Technologies
Explore assistive technologies designed for dementia care, such as wearable devices, motion sensors, and smart home technology. These tools can enhance safety and provide additional layers of monitoring.
Some of these can be quite expensive, but ask around to see if your insurance company will reimburse you for them. Medicare only covers them in certain cases, so you will need to apply first and see if you quality.
Dementia Care – Be Prepared for Wandering Behavior
Dementia can be a complex and complicated illness, and it does bring its own set of trials and tribulations. Wandering behavior is just one of the many things you will be dealing with as a caregiver.
If dementia care is becoming too hard for you, consider placing them in a memory care community at Inspired Living. Our caring professionals will take care of your loved ones as if they were their own.
Schedule a tour by contacting us to learn if our assisted living programs fit your needs.