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How to lower the chances of wandering

Our loved ones that suffer from the disease are often at risk for wandering throughout the varying stages of dementia, due to disorientation and confusion. While wandering cannot be completely prevented, it is important to understand why he/she may be wandering and make a plan to lower the chances. 

Our loved ones who suffer from the disease are often at risk for wandering throughout the varying stages of dementia due to disorientation and confusion. While wandering can’t always be prevented, it is important to understand why he/she may be wandering in the first place and establish a plan to decrease the chances going forward. 

Confusion, delusions, the escape from a perceived threat of fear and agitation are common examples of why people with dementia wander. Oftentimes, the person with dementia doesn’t realize that he/she is at home and will set forth to find “home”. What does “home” mean to them? Is it the people, the memories, the structure? Is it their childhood home? Boredom, restlessness and lack of stimulation are also common causes for wandering. While the use of alarms, locks and GPS devices are a great starting point, understanding the underlying reason for the wandering will help you make some adjustments to decrease the risk and provide you with peace of mind. 

  • Routines – Provide structure in the day by creating a daily plan
  • Observe patterns – Plan activities during the time of day your loved one is likely to wander
  • Reassure your loved one – Reassure your loved one that he or she is safe when feeling lost or wanting to “go home”
  • Ensure that your loved one has what they need – Hunger, thirst, or a need to go to the bathroom can cause wandering
  • Engage them in purposeful work – use activities that would have been normal chores or activities in their everyday life
  • Install devices – Be aware of when a door or window is opened
  • Understand past routines – Your loved one might be trying to go to work, run errands, or attend a social outing
  • Check with the doctor – Medications can often be the culprit 
  • Prove a safe space and clear path – Eliminate obstacles and allow for pacing and movement
  • Notify neighbors and community members 
  • Redirect during moments of agitation

Putting yourself in the shoes of your loved one with dementia will help you better understand his or her need to wander and help you put the appropriate measures in place. It is important to avoid responding with distress by telling him/her what you DON’T want them to do. If you say, “Don’t go outside,” you are prompting the individual to think about outside and it will be difficult to reverse that train of thought. Remain calm and validate his/her feelings. 

If wandering has become an issue, it may be time to consult with a professional. Our team of Certified Senior Advisors® and Certified Dementia Practitioners® has helped hundreds of older adults and their families. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call 617-227-1600 or email info@dovetailcompanies.com.

Dovetail Companies provides one point of contact for all services seniors may need when transitioning from their longtime home, minimizing stress and providing peace of mind to focus on the transition rather than the logistics. Dovetail Companies is the parent company to three subsidiary companies; Dovetail Support Services, Dovetail Financial and Dovetail Real Estate Group. For more information visit www.dovetailcompanies.com or call 617-227-1600.