People with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias wander due to a variety of reasons. If a person is increasingly forgetful, they may start an activity and forget what they were doing and go out to seek to remember. In the middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, a person will regress to an earlier age and go out in search of something from their past, such as a house or relative from childhood.
A person with dementia often experiences hyperactivity & restlessness due to changes within the brain. The hyperactivity will cause a person to wander aimlessly to burn off the extra energy they are experiencing.
It isn’t unusual for a person with dementia to become anxious to changes in their surroundings, such as a move to an adult day center or assisted living facility.
When a person with dementia has a lifelong habit such as taking a daily walk, they may become lost after making a turn off of their own street.
How can a caregiver prevent wandering?
Keep a diary. This may pick up on certain events that trigger wandering.
Consider making an area of the garden secure so they can wander safely.
Avoid leaving things in sight that may remind them of wandering, such as hats or coats.
Alert neighbors and caregivers about their wandering.
Ensure they always carry identification for example, an identity bracelet with contact telephone number. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program can assist when a person with dementia is lost or wanders. Safe Return web link: http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_medicalert_safereturn.asp
Keep a recent photograph preferably in electronic form, to help police if they get lost.
Keep a list of contacts of people who you can called upon quickly to search if the patient becomes lost.
Create visual barriers across exits with mirrors or curtains. This may deter them from leaving.
If a person cannot be dissuaded from leaving, accompany them. It may then be possible to divert them and return home.
Consider door alarms which alert you to doors being opened. The Alzheimer’s Store’s door alarm link: http://store.nexternal.com/shared/StoreFront/default.asp?CS=ageless&StoreType=BtoC&Count1=518154323&Count2=435294747&CategoryID=2&Target=products.asp
Lock doors. Sometimes the safest thing to do is lock the door and in some cases, relocate door locks. Placing locks above eye level, or down low on the door at ankle level. Ensure doors can still be opened by the caregiver in case of emergency.
Avoid using medication to stop wandering. It may increase confusion and cause other problems such as incontinence.