“Wandering” is a controversial word when it comes to dementia.
It’s common for health professionals and family carers to refer to “wandering” as a symptom of their condition but some dementia advocates, as well as people living with dementia, do not like the term.
And perhaps rightly so.
They may even go as far as to encourage people to not call such behaviour “wandering”. Rather an unmet need of the person living with dementia.
So what actually is wandering after-all? For people with dementia, it can appear that they are walking around aimlessly, and at times quite repetitively.
It usually happens because they are agitated or confused. Sometimes it might be because they have simply forgotten where they are or what they were doing.
For some people with dementia, the cause for this so-called “wandering” is because the environment is new to them, and they feel uncertain and disoriented.
It could also be their way of expressing boredom or using up excess energy – which indicates that maybe they need more exercise.
There are a number of things that you can do to help and support someone if you think they may be struggling with dementia.
It’s important to keep the person engaged – just because they are “wandering” doesn’t mean they should stop doing productive activities. It can be helpful to give them structured, meaningful activities to do throughout the day.
Many people with dementia also have anxiety – which can cause them to become agitated and start pacing – make sure the person gets some exercise, which can reduce anxiety, agitation, and restlessness.
Remember, wandering does not exclusively mean by foot. It includes driving too, if the person is no longer driving, remove access to car keys. The person may forget that he or she can no longer drive.
If you are worried about the person leaving at night, it may be helpful to put locks or deadbolts either high or low on exterior doors. But do not make them feel like they are locked inside, because that will only make them stress more.
And most importantly, do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised in new surroundings.
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