What Causes Dementia Wandering
Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia affect cells in the part of the brain that controls memory. Recent memories and spatial recall or the ability to remember different locations or where something is in relation to something else are two of the first things seniors with cognitive decline lose, according to the National Institute on Aging. These challenges make it harder to remember a destination, determine directions, or recall the reason for leaving in the first place.
Seniors with dementia may want to escape a situation because theyre confused or disoriented. But as they depart, they can forget what happened, become unexpectedly lost, and begin to wander. Emotional distress, medical conditions, and a perceived need to complete tasks can all cause dementia wandering.
If A Person With Dementia Goes Missing
Use Visual Cues Or Distractions
As mentioned earlier, in dementia, it can be difficult for your loved one to remember environmental and life changes. Although one’s memory of these changes is impacted, certain over-rehearsed visual or procedural concepts are not as affected by dementia. For instance, placing a stop sign at your front door may be a useful way to cue your loved one to stop or to walk away from the door. You can also paint a door to match the walls’ colors or have the door represent something else of importance to the person .
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Restless Leg Syndrome And Related Conditions
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 10 percent of the United States population could have restless leg syndrome with or without a dementia diagnosis.
Its more common in women but happens in men, as well. For example, my husband suffers from a related condition called periodic limb movement disorder, which makes his muscles twitch while he is sleeping and this affects his sleep quality.
Restless leg syndrome causes pain and discomfort in the legs unless moving them. They might feel burning or tingling and even charley horses.
Thus, even if older adults with dementia wanted to sleep, their restless leg syndrome or similar condition would force them into another sleepless night.
They might decide to get out of bed to relieve the discomfort in their legs and then lose track of what theyre doing. Then you wake up and find them rummaging through the house in the middle of the night.
Ways To Keep Dementia Patients From Wandering At Night And Tips For Minimizing Risks When They Do
Do you have a loved one suffering from dementia? Are you worried about their safety? It can be heartbreaking and frightening to watch a loved one suffer from dementia.
Patients dealing with dementia may be dealing with memories of familiar people and places being erased. This may lead to patients wandering away.
Caregivers and family members can be burdened by the unpredictable nature of this dangerous dementia-related behavior.
Why dementia patients walk around at night
How to prevent dementia patients from wandering
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What To Do If Your Loved One Wanders Away
Time is of the essence. It is extremely important to not delay action. Several immediate steps you can take are:
- Notify police immediately. Call 911.
- Have a safety plan in place, and a phone tree to alert friends and family.
- Alert local businesses and neighbors prior to an occurrence of wandering to increase awareness of your loved ones condition and tendencies.
- Use social media when applicable.
- Some states have Silver Alerts.
- In Pennsylvania, the State Police administer the Missing and Endangered Person Advisory System. Contact your local state police barracks as soon as possible.
Causes Of Dementia Wandering At Night
As dementia progresses, people often spend more time sleeping during the day and awake or restless at night. Sleep itself is often a major stressor for caregivers, and when you add wandering, its really a challenge, says Denny. No one is happy or able to provide their best care when theyre waking up multiple times a night especially when theyre fearful that their loved one getting up will wander. Some causes of dementia wandering at night may include:
Physical discomfort. Someone may wake because of a physical need, like hunger, thirst, or a bathroom trip. While searching for a solution, they may become disoriented and leave the room.
Being too hot or cold. Alzheimers patients bodies may regulate temperature differently, according to a study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. This is because the frontal and temporal lobes the parts of the brain where people process temperature and pain sensations have begun to deteriorate. A natural drop in body temperature also occurs with age. Someone could leave bed to find blankets and become lost, or be unable to fall asleep due to extreme heat.
Perceived obligations. Someone may wake up and think they need to get to work or complete some other imagined duty, says Denny. When they try to fulfill the task, they may leave the bed and become disoriented.
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Developing Meaningful Activities For Him To Do
Helping my Grandpa participate in activities that he findsto be meaningful makes him feel successful and improves his mood.
My Grandpa has always been a family man, so sitting togetherand going through photo albums of family events and holidays always puts asmile on his face and encourages conversation. Maybe your loved one hassomething similar that they enjoy?
I encourage my Grandpa to get involved in the day-to-dayactivities of the house, like cooking, or even just helping wash the dishes. Wedo it together, and I can sense the lift in his mood when he sees that he isaccomplishing something
Importantly, I make sure that I dont get upset with him ifhe doesnt do these tasks right. I stay flexible and patient with him and guidehim through it, and I even change the job altogether if I see that hes havingquite a bit of trouble with that particular activity
Everyday Activities Can Lead To Wandering
Seniors with dementia may become disoriented trying to follow old routines and complete daily tasks that were once common for them. Some activities that can lead to wandering include:
- Following past routines. With Alzheimers and other forms of dementia, people may cognitively revert to times past. Trying to follow familiar routes like driving to work, going on long walks, or returning to an old neighborhood can result in disorientation and dementia wandering.
- Searching. A senior may be looking for someone or something not in their present environment for example, a childhood friend or a room in a home they used to own.
- Navigating the home. Sometimes, a trip to the mailbox, restroom, or kitchen can lead to disorientation.
- Attempting former chores or responsibilities. Responsibilities like caring for a child, cooking dinner for the family, or gardening can lead to wandering. Trying to find a young child or go to the grocery store can put seniors in unfamiliar environments.
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Make A Bedtime Routine And Stick With It
Dementia patients do best with a reliable and predictable daily routine that includes waking and going to sleep at the same time.
The schedule might reduce a dementia patients rate of agitation, restlessness, and aggression. Your stress as the caretaker or adult child is also lessened since you know whats coming.
Although it will take several nights to get a bedtime routine going, once you do, it will be worthwhile for both yourself and your parent or loved one with dementia.
Be sure to follow the routine moving forward. Even on weekends, the dementia patient shouldnt change their sleep schedule.
Preventing Wandering Can Protect Alzheimer’s Patients
It is important for you to know that you can help prevent incidents of wandering even though you cannot always guarantee total prevention. If you are aware of the causes of wandering you can minimize the risks of someone with Alzheimer’s disease becoming lost. Although wandering remains a risk, there are several things that you can do to help prevent wandering in an assisted living center, long term care facility, or at home to ensure that the family’s loved one remains safe.
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Create And Maintain A Routine
Creating a daily schedule provides routine and structure. Having a list of things that need to be done at a particular time or place may help prevent someone from wandering off. It’s even better if the list includes things the person enjoys or has found meaningful in the past. Using various sensory cues to remind the person that this schedule exists may be useful, including alarms, lights, or having a schedule on a large print daily planner or a whiteboard.
How To Keep Alzheimers Patients From Wandering
When caring for a senior with Alzheimers at home, it is very challenging to completely prevent wandering. Fortunately, there are steps that dementia caregivers can take to minimize the risk of elopement. Explore the following wandering prevention products and strategies to keep a dementia patient safe at home.
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Tips To Prevent Wandering For Alzheimer Residents
Posted by Accutech on January 1, 1970 12:00 am
It is suggested that nearly 70% of people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander away from home and get lost. Wandering is one of the biggest risks for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and is a common but dangerous symptom of the disease. A wanderer is someone with a disease such as Alzheimer’s who has wandered away on their own free-will from their caregiver. The risk is evident in the 31,000 Alzheimer’s patients who researcher Robert J. Koester estimates wanders per year. When someone with Alzheimer’s disease wanders, he or she is disorientated and unable to judge potentially dangerous places and situations. People suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk and the incidence of wandering increases.
Tips For Managing Wandering
There are several steps caregivers can take in order to manage wandering, including making the home safer.
First, dedicate areas that are safe for wandering and exercise. Make sure the areas are clear of stairwells, clutter, sharp or fragile objects, chemicals, obstacles on the floor, and other hazards.
If the person likes to rummage, provide a drawer or chest for rummaging in this safe area.
Make sure that the person has comfortable, secure shoes and regularly check their feet for any blisters, sores, or toenail problems.
Watch closely to ensure the persons safety as well as the safety of others and to monitor where they wander. If the person tries to wander into an area that you want to remain off-limits, cue them away from that area.
Place childproof doorknob covers, locks that require keys on both sides, or door alarms on doors that you do not want the person to open easily or without being detected.
Provide individuals with a medical bracelet or necklace and place their name, medical conditions and important phone numbers in a wallet or purse. You can also have the same information sewn into or written on their clothing.
If the person is missing, first check the immediate surroundings. Look in closets, the basement, and the garage. Check unusual places as well, such as crawl spaces, mechanical rooms, and the attic if accessible.
to learn about the Safe Return® program.
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Ways To Prevent Seniors With Dementia From Wandering
Your neighbor just found your senior dad wandering alone outside. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is common in people who have memory problems or dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association says that 60 percent of people with dementia will wander. It affects everyone, as family members live in fear that their loved one will wander off and get lost or hurt, especially in the middle of the night.
Why Do Alzheimers and Dementia Patients Wander?
Using Medication To Manage The Wandering
While there are a number of medications that a doctor can prescribe for a dementia patient. However, there is no specific medication to prevent or stop the wandering. Nevertheless, you should talk with your loved ones doctor about it as soon as it occurs. For example, revising your loved ones medication can be advisable since you are dealing with a new occurrence.Medication that keeps your loved one calm, less anxious and may make them sleep better.
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Outcome Of Wandering In Dementia
The consequences of the wandering can vary from minor injury on the body to severe injury and death.20,21 The persistent wandering behavior and weak gait and balance have been shown to increase the risk of falls, fractures, and accidents in PwD.22,23 It was also found that patients who wander often and are unable to sit down for meals can suffer from malnutrition, weight loss, and fatigue as a result of their high caloric needs.22 In addition, swelling and abrasions, soft tissue injuries, and abnormal body temperature was also observed among eloped dementia patients.23
Enlist The Help Of Others
- Tell immediate neighbors about the persons Alzheimers. Ask them to call you if, say, he or she uncharacteristically comes over to visit or is seen walking alone.
- Use daycare and professional help. If someone with Alzheimers begins leaving home when he or she wanders, that person should no longer be left alone even for short periods. If you are the primary caregiver, take advantage of adult daycare programs or a relief caregiver when you must go out.
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Alzheimer’s Research On Wandering Behavior
Koester’s research provides more insight into wandering in Alzheimer’s patients. Those with Alzheimer’s disease leave their own residence or nursing home and usually start to wander along roads. Eighty-nine percent of wandering patients are usually found within one mile from the point last seen. If the patient is not wandering along the road , they are usually in a creek or drainage , or caught in bushes or shrubberies . But, the Alzheimer’s patient is frequently found wandering a short distance from a road. Unfortunately there are some wanderers who eventually give in to the environment and develop hypothermia or dehydration , or are found deceased .
Risk Factors And Causes Of Wandering In Dementia
Even though wandering is a common clinically recognized behavior, the exact risk factor and cause for wandering in dementia are unknown. Although wanderers do not differ from non-wanderers in dementia by gender, age, and ethnicity, some studies reported it is more prevalent in men younger than other elderly and people of African descent.7,8,9 Furthermore, people with Alzheimers disease and dementia with Lewy bodies are more likely than those with vascular dementia to wander.10 Wandering is linked to the severity of cognitive impairment , including issues with recent and remote memory, time and place orientation, and the ability to react appropriately to a given conversation subject.11,12 Persons with Dementia on antipsychotic treatment or who had comorbid depression, psychosis, or externalizing behaviors like arguing and threatening were more likely to wander.13–15
The causes of wandering are elusive, though hypotheses have been proposed ranging from biomedical to biopsychosocial to personenvironment interactions.14 This includes the following:
What Is The Best Way To Handle Wandering Patients
You may come to find that your loved ones wandering behaviors are merely annoying and do not pose any harm. This is a good thing because it does not generally require intervention beyond basic safety measures. Walking provides many health benefits and can be a good activity for seniors. However, if a person with dementia is walking to the point of exhaustion, losing weight, falling, getting lost or escaping into unsafe areas , then interventions are necessary.
I have found that family, paid caregivers and health care providers tend to want to control or stop troubling dementia behaviors through medications or physical restraints. However, there are no FDA-approved medications for wandering behaviors, and the medications many doctors recommend can cause sedation and contribute to falls. Additionally, the use of physical restraints can be detrimental to an elders physical and mental health, enhancing the risk of poor circulation, pressure ulcers, weakness, incontinence, increased dependence, depression, agitation, fear and isolation.