What Causes Alzheimer’s Wandering?
For adult children and family caregivers, just the idea that a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease might wander can be frightening. It is one of the most challenging behaviors for families to manage. More than half of the people with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point. While researchers aren’t certain what causes wandering they believe it is linked to unmet needs and an inability to communicate.
5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Wandering
Here are a few suggestions that may help you prevent your loved one from wandering:
Plan for Basic Needs: Because people with Alzheimer’s may lose verbal skills early on as the disease progresses, they have trouble communicating what they need. It can lead them to wander in search of a solution. Make it a routine part of the day to ensure that their basic needs are met and that you are there for support.
Use Universal Signs: Universal signs such as a Stop sign or a Do Not Enter sign placed on doors you don’t want your loved one to use may act as a deterrent. Even people with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease can still recognize these signs.
Avoid the Leaving Cues: Keeping items hidden that are commonly associated with leaving the house may help prevent your senior family member from recognizing an exterior door. Store hats, boots, coats, gloves and umbrellas out-of-sight and away from doors.
Disguise Exit Doors: Another best practice often found in dementia care centers is to paint the interior side of an exit door in the same color as the walls. That includes the door knob. If the door has a window, disguise that as well. It makes it harder for them to distinguish the door from the wall.
Create a Safe Path: Agitation is believed to be a trigger for wandering. While it is difficult to create a completely calm environment for your loved one, it may help if you have a safe place for them to pace indoors. Keep throw rugs, extension cords and other clutter out of the way in the area they seem to gravitate to most when they are agitated. It may help prevent them from trying to seek an exit.
Our final suggestion is to plan for the worst. Consider purchasing a GPS tracking watch for your family member to wear. These devices can help you quickly locate your loved one in the event they wander.