Wandering city sidewalks to window shop or strolling along a park path can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, unless you suffer from dementia.
Those with dementia can become disoriented or lost even in familiar places, exposing them to multiple hazards. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three out of five people with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease will wander. If you’re a caregiver for someone who is dealing with dementia, develop a plan to lessen their likelihood of wandering.
Foremost, understand why people with dementia wander. Common reasons are avoiding stress or fear, leaving noisy environments, trying to cure boredom, or searching for something. Knowing why your loved one tends to wander can help you strategize to reduce the activity.
Ensure that your loved one’s basic needs are met, including bathroom visits, food, and water. This will discourage them from repeatedly searching for these things. If they struggle with restlessness, incorporate fun and engaging activities that encourage physical activity.
A regular routine can provide structure to the day, which can be calming and comforting. Encourage them to follow a consistent sleep and meal schedule.
Being in a new and busy place can cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to wandering. Try to avoid stressful situations, and stay in calm and familiar surroundings. If you are forced to introduce them to such an environment, be sure someone remains with them the entire time. If they become agitated or insist on leaving, try to distract them with other ideas. Arguing will only worsen the situation.
Deadbolts and alarms strategically placed around the home can be helpful. These alarms can notify you when your loved one may be trying to leave. For example, a bell may chime when any door is opened. In addition, placing deadbolts higher or lower than normal on the door will keep it out of their line of sight, discouraging them from leaving.
Finally, plan in case your loved one wanders. Keep a list of emergency names and numbers in their wallet or on an identification bracelet. In addition, keep a recent photo of your loved one to help authorities identify them.
If caring for your loved one with dementia is too much stress, consider respite care with ElderServe’s Adult Day Health Center. Our staff can care for dementia patients who can take direction by keeping them engaged with social and recreational activities, and a nurse is always on site. For more information and to schedule a tour, call 502.776.3066.