Coping with Wandering Senior Loved Ones with Dementia

Wandering is a standard behaviour among seniors with dementia. It refers to when someone with dementia moves about aimlessly or without a clear purpose. Wandering can pose a safety risk for the individual and cause caregiver stress. Caregivers must establish a safe environment and keep track of the senior’s movements to prevent them from getting lost or injured.

When coping with a loved one senior wandering, it is essential to approach them with empathy and patience and provide a secure environment. 

Early Warning Signs of Wandering

It is helpful to know the early signs of wandering to keep seniors with dementia safe.

Some signs to look out for may include the following:

  • Taking longer than usual on routine walks or errands.
  • Problems navigating in familiar areas.
  • Restless, anxious, nervous, or repetitive behaviour.
  • Retired people may talk about having to get to work.
  • Talk about visiting deceased friends or family like they are still alive.
  • They say, “I want to go home,” even at home.
  • Trouble remembering where various rooms are in the house.
  • Tries to perform daily tasks and routines, but challenging to do.

These signs are generally associated with the early stages of dementia; wandering behaviours are often soon to follow.

What triggers wandering in seniors with dementia?

Wandering in seniors with dementia can be triggered by a variety of factors, including the following:

Boredom or restlessness: Seniors with dementia may wander for stimulation or because they feel cooped up.

Disorientation or confusion: Wandering can result from confusion or disorientation, mainly when the senior is in a new or unfamiliar environment.

Search for familiarity: Wandering may occur due to the senior’s attempt to find familiar places or people.

Changes in routine: Unfamiliar changes in routine, such as a shift in caregivers or a move to a new environment, can trigger wandering behaviour.

Anxiety or agitation: Wandering can manifest anxiety or agitation in seniors with dementia.

Physical needs: Seniors with dementia may wander, searching for food, water, or the bathroom.

Sleep disturbance: Wandering triggered by sleep disturbances, such as nighttime restlessness or insomnia.

It’s important to understand that wandering behaviour in seniors with dementia is not a deliberate or voluntary act but rather a manifestation of the changes in the brain due to the disease.

Some strategies for coping with wandering seniors 

If you find your loved one is beginning to wander and you are concerned for their safety, you can try a few things to help manage the situation.

Establish a routine: Maintaining a consistent daily routine can help reduce confusion and anxiety in seniors with dementia.

Create a safe environment: This may include installing locks on doors and windows, using bed alarms, and having a backup plan in case the senior wanders away.

Use reminders: Verbal reminders, such as reminding the senior of the activity’s time or purpose, can help reduce wandering behaviour.

Engage in physical activity: Exercise and physical activity can help reduce anxiety and agitation and may also help improve sleep patterns.

Offer reassurance: Reassuring the senior that they are safe and that everything is okay can help calm their anxieties and reduce wandering behaviour.

Encourage socialization: Engaging in social activities and spending time with others can help reduce loneliness and confusion.

Try to determine what time of day wandering occurs and arrange an activity or rest time for those periods.

Many people living with dementia exhibit a symptom referred to as Sundowning, and it can happen at any stage of dementia, also known as a late day or early evening confusion.

It is also essential to work with the senior’s caregivers, family members, and healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses their individual needs and helps maintain their safety and well-being.

Diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder can be debilitating for the person affected and their families. Exceptional cognitive companions and caregivers will offer unwavering mental, physical, and emotional support for your loved one.

All Promyse Home Care caregivers matched with a client with Alzheimer’s or Dementia have experience working with patients struggling with cognitive impairment.

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