Dementia can be difficult to deal with but one of its most terrifying symptoms is wandering. This occurs when someone forgets how to navigate to a certain place, or where they came from. They easily become confused, lost, and increasingly frightened. Caregivers find this behavior immensely distressing. A loved one’s sudden disappearance, especially in populated areas, can be a cause for alarm. The Alzheimer’s Association points out that 60 percent of people dealing with dementia wander away at some point, and plenty get lost with no means of finding their way back.
Why does it happen?
Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia eats away at brain cells, which eventually destroys a person’s memory. Their most recent memories and immediate recall are the first to disappear. A telltale sign of the early onset of dementia is simply forgetting an activity as you’re doing it, and then it later transcends to forgetting your intentions of doing an activity.
People suffering from dementia are also easily disoriented. Unfamiliar and crowded settings trigger confusion and signal in their brain urge them to leave. Considering the discussion above, as soon as they start walking, they forget why and end up being lost. This can happen to the safe confines of their own home, too—they express the extreme desire to go home even if they already are!
Tips to prevent wandering
The threat of wandering happens even if you’re the best of caregivers out there. Here are some strategies to help lower the chances of it happening:
- Carry out daily activities according to routine. Considering that their memory is suffering, having a routine can help them regain a semblance of structure. Create a daily plan for them and carefully structure meals and activities. Make sure that all their basic needs are met—baths, medicine intake, hydration, and body movement. Ensuring their bodies are well-taken care of may help them feel a little more relaxed.
- What are the most likely times of day that wandering may occur? More often than not, wandering is a pattern. As soon as you’ve identified the specific time, plan activities to keep your loved on preoccupied. As with the first tip, inducing relaxation and canceling out restlessness should be your goal.
- Avoid busy places. If it’s time for a little taste of the outside, avoid crowded venues. Instead of going to the malls and grocery stores, visit the park instead. Remember that noisy places can trigger confusion and cause disorientation, which will feed on their desire to get away and “go home”.
- Use signal devices for extra help. Some individuals may be difficult to deal with than others, so it’s best to install signal devices by doors or windows. You can opt for something simple like bells, or perhaps electronic home alarms. Regardless of choice, the main goal is to alert you when wandering is occurring.
- Practice extra patience and reassurance. A person suffering from dementia will likely feel lost, disoriented, abandoned, and confused in the comfort of their own homes. They make express the need to “go to work” or “go home”, usually signifying the need for validation and the strong desire to explore. Do not attempt to correct the person and use soothing language. Reassure them of their safety.
Dealing with wandering can be quite traumatic, but the best way to handle the situation is remembering that you’re not at fault. Wandering is a symptom of dementia, one that can be managed over time through learning and patience. If it happens, you’ll now be more equipped to handle such situations. Use the tips given above to guide you throughout the journey with your loved one.
With that said, if you’re looking for dementia facilities in Houston. We are the best place to go to. As certified dementia practitioners, we’ll help you take care of your loved one. Reach out to us for more information!