Wandering and Alzheimer’s Disease

Managing Wandering in Alzheimer’s Patients
Your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may wander off for a variety of reasons. Wandering may be due to stress or fear, boredom, or searching. They may wander off trying to fill a basic need, like hunger or a need to go to the bathroom. Sometimes they are reliving their former lives, believing that they are shopping or going to work. If you know why they wander off, you may be able to come up with a plan that helps to prevent it.

There are strategies that you can use to help prevent wandering. First, have a routine. Having a plan for your day and activities will reduce the tendency to wander. Note if the wandering tends to happen at a particular time of the day; have activities planned for that time. Make sure that basic needs are met and that he or she has had enough to eat and drink and has been given the opportunity to go to the bathroom.

Tips to prevent wandering:

  • Secure the doors. Lock them (keeping locks out of eye level). Use signs like STOP! or DO NOT ENTER. Use alarms that go off when the door is opened. Use loosely fitting doorknob covers to make them difficult to open.
  • Always have supervision. Never lock a person with dementia in a home alone.
  • Camouflage doors by painting them to match the paint or wallpaper in the room or covering them with drapes.
  • Fence in the yard and have a lockable gate.
  • Keep things that signal “travel” out of sight. Hide shoes, car keys, luggage, coats and hats.
  • Use a GPS device, like a watch, that your loved one can wear and let you know quickly where he or she is.

Ensure a safe return:

  • Notify local police and neighbors about your loved one with dementia and the tendency to wander. Ask them to notify you if the person is seen alone.
  • Put labels in clothing that identify your loved one and give his or her address.
  • Keep a recent close-up photo of your loved one to give to police or neighbors if your loved one is lost.
  • For a small fee, the Alzheimer’s Association has a safe return program. You get an ID bracelet for your loved one and 24-hour support if he or she goes missing.
  • Do not search for more than 15 minutes. Call 911 and tell them that a “vulnerable adult”, a person with Alzheimer’s disease is missing.

Six out of 10 Alzheimer’s patients will wander. On average they do not wander more than 1.5 miles from home.

Written by: Paul Varnas, DC, DACBN (Doctor of Chiropractic; Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Nutrition). He has written and published numerous articles on the topics of exercise, wellness and nutrition.

By: Paul Varnas, DC, DACBN

This article is courtesy of Active Daily Living.