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Dementia and Wandering

Dementia can lead to wandering. According to one study, about 60% of people living with dementia will wander at least once, if not repeatedly. More often than not, they wander over and over again and measures should be put in place to guarantee safety. Dementia can make familiar places and faces seem unfamiliar, so wandering is an attempt to find something that feels safe and comfortable. Wandering can also be a sign of anxiety or boredom in someone who has dementia. 

What causes wandering?

So, why do those with dementia wander? Figuring out what triggers wandering for your loved one is going to be unique to them. Because dementia influences the level of cognitive function in the brain, wandering is likely associated with other symptoms of dementia such as forgetfulness and anxiety. 

The following are common causes of wandering: 

  • Boredom
  • Tiredness
  • Need to use the restroom
  • Hunger
  • Anxiety

When someone with dementia needs to complete daily tasks such as sleeping or eating, it can lead to wandering to different rooms since they cannot remember where those places are. 

Imagine the anxiety you would feel if nothing around you was familiar. Dementia and anxiety are closely related for obvious reasons. If anxiety is becoming an issue, talk to a doctor about treatment and medication.  

Treating boredom with a structured schedule or regular activities can also combat wandering. Having less down time for someone with dementia to wander around and potentially get lost or injured is a better option. 

When do they wander?

Those with dementia are more likely to wander in the evening. We have another resource on sundowning, and most of the time people with cognitive impairments struggle more with all types of behaviors in the evenings. However, as mentioned previously, the wandering could be associated with times that they have to use the restroom, eat, sleep, etc. If the wandering becomes consistent, you could keep a journal of where and when the wandering is happening to resolve the issue. 

How to prevent or treat wandering from dementia

Knowing how to prevent wandering is going to come by understanding what feelings are triggering the behavior. If the wandering is associated with a specific trigger, you could easily put some procedures in place such as labeling doors with pictures of what is in that room. Having a routine or schedule helps with many dementia associated behaviors as well, including wandering. If anxiety is becoming an issue, talk to a doctor about treatment and medication.  

Because wandering could lead to major safety concerns, it would be wise to consider a full-time caregiver whether that is in-home care or in a separate facility. 

Resources for wandering

The Gables offers memory care for whenever you decide that taking care of your loved one is no longer an option. Their safety will be our top priority. We have trained staff on site, security measures such as keypad doors, and secured areas to provide the best care to those with special memory needs such as dementia. We have memory care facilities throughout Idaho and Utah. Contact us today for more information on your closest memory care home.

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