Wandering and Alzheimer’s: Why It Happens and How to Help

dementia care experts

Wandering is a common side effect of Alzheimer’s disease.

Of the many effects of Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps one of the most concerning is the individual’s tendency for wandering as well as the potential dangers that may occur if the senior becomes disoriented or lost. Wandering can take place when the older adult is:

  • Scared, confused or overwhelmed
  • Trying to find someone or something
  • Bored
  • Seeking to keep a familiar past routine (such as going to a job or shopping)
  • Taking care of a basic necessity (such as getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom)

The objective is twofold; to help keep the senior safe, and to make certain his / her needs are fulfilled to attempt to prevent the need to wander to begin with. Try the following safety measures in case your senior loved one is likely to wander:

  • Be certain that the residence is equipped with a security system and locks that the senior is unable to master, such as a sliding bolt lock above his or her range of vision. An assortment of alarms can be bought, from something as simple as placing a bell over door knobs, to highly-sensitive pressure mats that will sound an alarm when stepped upon, to GPS devices which can be worn, and more. It’s also a great idea to register for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
  • Conceal exits by covering up doors with curtains, setting temporary folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You could also try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes dissuade people in the earlier stages of dementia from trying to exit.
  • Another danger for individuals who wander is the additional risk of falling. Look over each room of the house and address any tripping concerns, such as removing throw rugs, extension cords, and any obstacles that may be obstructing walkways, adding extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.

It is important to keep in mind that with supervision and direction, wandering is not necessarily an issue. Go for a walk together outside anytime weather permits and the senior is in the mood to be mobile, providing the extra advantage of fresh air, physical exercise, and quality time together.

While often tricky to manage, the dementia care team at Generations at Home has been specially trained to be equally watchful and proactive in deterring wandering and to utilize creative strategies to help seniors with dementia stay calm and happy. Email or call us at 727-940-3414 for more information!