How to Cope with Wandering in Alzheimer’s Patients?

Wandering in Alzheimer's Patients

People who have Alzheimer’s disease start to have trouble recognizing familiar individuals and surroundings. A person with dementia frequently wanders, gets lost, or is unsure of where they are, and this can happen at any stage of the disease. Six in ten dementia patients will wander at least once, and many do so repeatedly.

Wandering is a common occurrence. However, it can also be harmful or even fatal, and the stress this risk causes caregivers and families is significant.

Wandering is highly dangerous. In reality, 50% of people who aren’t discovered within the first 24 hours after their disappearance end up either dead or severely injured. Therefore, it’s crucial to take steps to stop wandering and put in place a plan for finding a lost loved one.

What causes wandering in dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia disrupt cells in the area of the brain that governs memory. According to the National Institute on Aging, recent memories and spatial recall—the capacity to remember several locations —are two of the first abilities seniors with cognitive impairment begin to lose. These difficulties make it more difficult to remember a location, figure out instructions, or remember why you left in the first place.

Seniors with dementia may feel confused and want to escape their surroundings. However, as they go, they can forget what happened, get lost, and start to wander. Dementia wandering can occur due to emotional discomfort, physical ailments, and a sense of urgency.

What are the warning signs of wandering in your dementia patient?

Wandering is a symptom of disease development, implying that it does not arise out of the blue. Your family member may be in danger of wandering if they begin:

  • Forgetting how to navigate both inside and outside the house to familiar destinations
  • Talking about previous responsibilities, such as picking kids from school or heading to work
  • Enquiring about the whereabouts of deceased family members
  • Wishing to “go home” when already at home
  • Feeling lost or uneasy in crowded or public areas

If you observe these patterns, it is time to implement your wandering safety plan.

Developing a wandering safety plan

If you and the other caregivers for your loved one have a wandering safety plan, you can be ready for an emergency long before it occurs. Consider the following when creating your safety plan:

  • Obtain a medical ID bracelet. The bracelet should have the wearer’s name, medical condition (such as “Alzheimer’s” or “memory loss”), the primary caregiver’s phone number, and, if possible, their address.
  • Sign up for a safe return program. Several manufacturers supply medical alert gadgets with GPS tracking. In addition to aiding the safe return of a person, they can help notify authorities in the case of a medical emergency.
  • Take photos regularly. You must have a current close-up photograph to give to the police if your loved one disappears.
  • Alert your neighbors. Contact the people who live near the person with Alzheimer’s and ask them to notify you if they observe them walking around unsupervised. If possible, give them a photo.
  • Write down potential wandering locations. Enlist destinations that your loved one has visited in the past or that you believe they would try to go to during a wandering episode. For instance, if the individual believes they still work, they would attempt to go to their office.
  • Install a security system. In addition to traditional home security systems, a large range of products designed solely for wandering mitigation are available in the market, such as bed, chair, and gate alarms. Similarly, pressure mats with built-in alarms can notify you if a loved one enters a dangerous part of the house.
  • Keep your keys hidden. Ensure your loved one with dementia cannot easily get your car or home keys.

How to manage wandering in Alzheimer’s patients

While you cannot completely prevent persons with Alzheimer’s from wandering, you may create a setting that inhibits it. The following tips will help you control wandering.

  • Continuous surveillance will almost certainly become necessary as dementia progresses. Always accompany your loved one in unfamiliar or changing settings, such as stores, parks, and restaurants. When you need a break from being the primary caregiver to run errands, work, or spend time with family, consider hiring in-home care.
  • Create routines. The structure can be beneficial even if your loved one hasn’t experienced problems wandering. Include your loved one in regular tasks like dinner preparation. If you aren’t giving daily care, make plans to phone at the same time daily for a check.
  • Consider symptoms while you plan. Examine patterns in the person’s wandering. Plan activities for that time of day if they tend to wander during that period.
  • Promote exercises such as “safe walking” and others. Restlessness and inactivity often result in wandering. Provide a program of supervised outdoor activities for your loved one.
  • Match your door handle to the door’s color if you can. Consider covering the doorknob with a cloth if you cannot change the hardware. Additionally, you may hang artwork on the door to make it appear like a wall.
  • Eliminate confusion. Loud noises, overstimulating situations, and unfamiliar surroundings can all cause confusion and discomfort. When your loved one is susceptible to roaming, try to create a peaceful setting for them.
  • Verbal cues to pay attention may reduce confusion in familiar surroundings. Consider signs for common spaces, such as the restroom and bedrooms, as well as clothing or preferred furnishings. Use your loved one’s name whenever you can. 

Alzheimer’s Research Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We provide the latest information and news about the illness and helpful tips to help caregivers cope with their daily caregiving challenges. We realize the most important thing that a caregiver needs is financial assistance. Therefore, we provide grants to caregivers to ease their financial burden. Caregivers can apply for grants here: Alzheimer’s Grant Application

You can also help caregivers in their endeavor by donating as much as possible: Donation To Alzheimer’s Research Associations.