Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Wandering Away


Are you the caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia? Do they have the tendency to want to wander away?

Treatment for dementia has advanced over the past few decades, but dementia care (also referred to as memory care) is still a difficult and heart wrenching experience. Since people who have dementia lose their memories, they often become fearful when they have no idea where they are, what’s happening around them, or why. When they’re in a state of uncertainty, their behaviors often become challenging, and they will withdraw from their environment.

Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. This behavior can be very distressing for you, and dangerous for your client. Wandering is a common behavior in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Once the individual begins to show signs of wandering behaviors, they are at a high-risk of wandering away or becoming lost.

Strategies that Minimize Wandering

It’s estimated that 6 out of 10 seniors with dementia will wander at some point. Whether you are a family caregiver or an in-home caregiver, it is important to be prepared for the challenges of dementia care. To keep seniors with dementia safe, there are several steps caregivers can take to prevent wandering behaviors or reduce the individual’s ability to wander.

Learn Why a Person With Dementia Is Wandering

People with dementia wander for a variety of reasons. They may be confused about their surroundings, looking for something or someone, or trying to get away from a stressful situation. They may also have fallen back into an old habit or routine. If a caregiver can understand the cause of the wandering, they will likely be able to prevent or reduce the behavior. If a person has a tendency to wander, monitor the behavior for any patterns and keep track of possible causes and times of day the wandering occurs. For example, if a person tends to wander in the morning, it may be because they are hungry or are falling into a habit of looking for food.

Increase Quality of Life and Reduce Stress

It is important to follow a consistent daily routine in order to reduce confusion and behavioral triggers in seniors who have dementia. Ensuring all basic needs are met, being reassuring if the person gets confused, providing familiar objects, and avoiding stressful or busy places will all help reduce a person’s tendency to wander. Engaging a person with dementia in activities and moderate exercise will also help keep them focused and calm, which will reduce symptoms and behaviors of agitation.

Install Infrastructure that Prevents Wandering

Creating a safe home environment will prevent a person’s ability to wander. It is important to use safety measures as tastefully as possible, in order to maintain the dignity of the person with dementia. Too many changes may also become confusing, and the goal is to provide both a safe and familiar home environment. Some ways to prevent wandering include installing top locks on doors, using a barrier at the tops of stairs such as a baby gate, installing child-safe plastic door knobs, and using baby monitors and motion detectors to help keep track of where the person is in the house.

Have a Plan in Place for Wandering

Despite using all available safety measures and precautions, seniors with dementia may still find a way to wander from home. Having a plan in place for this situation will reduce the risk of harm. A good plan will include:

  • Having identification ready

  • Informing neighbors, friends, and families about the wandering

  • Having house safety measures

  • Using a personal monitoring system

  • Knowing the neighborhood and any known wandering routes the person has taken in the past

In-Home Caregiving for Seniors with Dementia

In-home caregiving provides a high quality of life for seniors with dementia because the service allows people to remain in the familiar comfort of their home. This familiarity helps reduce stress in people with dementia and can help prevent behaviors like wandering.

If you are looking for dementia care or home care services, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations. All caregivers complete a thorough reference check, criminal background check, complete competency exams, and conduct a personal individual interview.

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