Wandering is a risk associated with many conditions, but particularly concerning elderly people in various stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in ten people with dementia will wander. “A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places. “
A senior with memory problems and yet still mobile is at a higher risk for wandering. Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused from time to time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “This behavior can happen at any stage of Alzheimer’s. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, he or she is at risk of getting lost — even if he or she has never wandered in the past.”
“People with dementia walk, seemingly aimlessly, for a variety of reasons, such as boredom, medication side effects or to look for “something” or someone,” according to AgingCare.com. “They also may be trying to fulfill a physical need—thirst, hunger, a need to use the toilet or exercise. Discovering the triggers for wandering are not always easy, but they can provide insights to dealing with the behavior.”
The Mayo Clinic lists 5 reasons why a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia might wander.
- Stress or fear. Your loved one might wander as a reaction to an unfamiliar or overstimulating environment, a loud noise or a situation he or she doesn’t understand.
- Searching. He or she might get lost while searching for someone or something.
- Boredom. He or she might be looking for something to do.
- Basic needs. He or she might be looking for a bathroom or food, or want to go outdoors.
- Following past routines. He or she might try to go to work, do chores or buy groceries.
Wandering in itself is not dangerous if the situation and location is controlled and safe. Working to understand your loved ones needs will help determine what course of action to take to keep them out of harms way. “The stress experienced by families and caregivers when a person with dementia wanders and becomes lost is significant,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. “Have a plan in place beforehand, so you know what to do in case of an emergency.”
Keeping your loved ones safe by removing dangerous obstacles, installing locks and alarms, and fitting them with a GPS device are ways to ensure the health and safety of your loved one.
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