Wandering – it’s a common happening in patients with memory loss. In fact, six in every ten patients living with Alzheimer’s will exhibit signs of wandering. What is wandering though; is it dangerous, what’s causing it, what can I do to help? These are questions that we all ask. Here’s what our caregivers have to say about this phenomenon of memory loss.
Why do we wander
Our family members will start to wander for a variety of reasons as they become disoriented or confused for a period of time.
• Basic Needs – they may be looking for a bathroom, for food, or for some item of comfort. If what they’re looking for is out of routine, then they may lose track of it and begin to wander.
• Old Routines – as our neural pathways degrade we can sometimes start living in the past. This includes following old routines such as thinking that we need to go home at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, go get the groceries on certain dates, etc.
• Agitation – Have you ever left a crowd of people because you were frustrated by the noise or confined spaces? Of course you have! As we age this feeling can become magnified. If a loved one is stressed they may begin wandering due to overstimulation to get away from that feeling.
What can we do to help
The inherent danger in wandering is that a person may get lost in public or wander into something that will cause them harm. If your loved one is still living alone or with you, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate any dangerous associated with wandering.
• Safety First – remember when your kids were toddlers and you “baby-proofed” the house by putting up gates, closing outlet covers, putting chemicals on higher shelves, etc? That’s the kind of thing you want to consider again, but for adults. This time around consider removing tripping hazards like cords and rugs, keep cleaning materials away from food products to avoid those similar bottles of vinegar and Windex from getting mixed up, etc.
• Tracking – if you still feel comfortable with your loved one going for walks alone, consider having them carry a device that can be checked with GPS. You can keep tabs on where they are right on your phone, and get to them right away if they’ve been gone too long without worrying about exactly where they are.
• Bells & Whistles – well, not specifically, but installing something on outside doors that will alert you when your senior is going outside may just make the difference between you talking that person into staying inside or them wandering aimlessly outdoors.
Wandering is an intense topic with much to learn about. Our staff at Heartwood are experts in memory care. Our safety protocols allow for residents to wander freely throughout our space as the mood comes and goes, but if they get too far or try to go outside alone an aide is notified and the staff will either go for a walk with the resident or encourage them back home. We’re here for our seniors!