Caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most difficult things adult children can face. Unlike other diseases or conditions, dementia erodes at the person and personality of the loved one you once knew so well. In fact, it can feel like your parent or loved one is a completely different person, and they can require hours and hours of hands on care.
One condition of dementia that can be especially concerning is frequent wandering or getting lost. In fact, six out of ten patients with dementia will display wandering behavior. Wandering can not only cause anxiety for both you or your loved one, it can be dangerous, as well.
Why Do Dementia Patients Wander?
Wandering happens when patients with dementia get confused or disoriented in their surroundings. They might think they have an appointment or that they are late to meet a friend or any other number of scenarios. They could also be doing something as simple as trying to find their bedroom or bathroom and choosing the wrong door. Or they could suddenly become afraid and wander as a means of seeking safety from their current environment.
Wandering can happen at any time. Many caregivers say things like, “I only turned around for a second, and they were gone!” It’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault if wandering happens; this behavior is just one of many symptoms of dementia. You can, however, take preventative steps to help lessen or curb wandering.
Tips for Managing Wandering in Dementia Patients
As we mentioned before, it may not be possible to stop this common dementia behavior. But you can take steps to keep your loved one safe or re-direct their wandering behavior.
Here are some helpful tips to manage wandering in dementia patients:
Increase Home Safety
Check your door locks, add a deadbolt, or replace flimsy turn locks. These simple measures can provide valuable seconds for you to prevent your loved one from leaving the home. You may also want to invest in an alarm system (even a simple one that chimes when the door opens can help). You can also label doors clearly for bathroom, bedroom or kitchen. Using “stop” or “do not enter” signs can also provide additional direction when your loved one is confused.
Make Sure Your Loved One Carries ID
There are many alternatives for carrying ID beyond a wallet or purse. ID bracelets or necklaces can be a huge help if your loved one wanders away from your home or is separated from you in public.
Get to Know Your Community
If there are places you visit frequently, or you live in a neighborhood, get to know key members in your community. Explain your situation and ask them to call or text you if they see your loved one walking alone.
Understand Patterns and Triggers
Sometimes wandering is tied to routines from your loved one’s past. You may find that they wander more in the morning when they believe they are late for work, or in the afternoon when they used to take a bike ride with the kids. It may be helpful to keep a journal for a few weeks and see if you can identify these patterns.
Wandering may also occur more often if your loved one is overly stressed or stimulated. Sleep might be more difficult to manage in dementia patients, but it’s nevertheless important for helping to curb symptoms of dementia. Try to set a strict sleep, rest or nap schedule for your loved one.
Also be aware of high stress situations that could trigger wandering, like being out in loud crowds or visiting unfamiliar surroundings.
Get In-Home Help
Experts in dementia care can relieve a huge burden of stress or worry from family caregivers. These professionals often spot behavior or patterns that you can’t when you’re so closely involved in your loved one’s day to day care. They can also recommend strategies and plans to help manage your loved one’s wandering.
But one of the biggest things an in-home personal care provider gives is peace of mind. They can offer family caregivers the hours they need to recharge and get much needed rest. And they can work with the patient to help calm their fears and establish routines to manage symptoms.
In-Home Help for Dementia Patients in Akron, Ohio
We offer in-home care for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as support for family caregivers. Our expert team of home health care providers wants seniors to enjoy the comforts of home for as long as possible while alleviating worry and stress for their families. Contact us today for a home health care assessment.