Six in 10 dementia sufferers wander. When someone wanders they are put at greater risk. Confusion can worsen and they can become lost. Falls and accidents are more likely. It can cause distress in the individual but also for their loved ones and caregivers.
Furthermore, while wandering tends to become more prevalent as dementia progresses, it isn’t limited to the later stages of the disease. In fact, it is most commonly experienced in the middle stages.
However, sometimes wandering can be prevented, or at least predicted. Knowing what causes someone to wander and what can help is vital.
There can be an inclination to think that wandering is often harmless. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case unless supervised and managed.
Memory, cognition and comprehension are all affected by dementia. These difficulties can make regular everyday hazards, such as traffic or crowds, difficult to judge and manage. Furthermore, language and communication difficulties are not uncommon, especially in a heightened sense of confusion, making it difficult for the individual to ask for help.
As a result, someone with dementia can easily run into danger if they are unaccompanied while wandering.
Indeed, research has shown that dementia sufferers who wander are at greater risk of falls and fractures. Worryingly, the research has also shown that wandering can be the catalyst for premature death.
In order to manage the dangers of wandering, you need to first understand the indicators that someone may wander.
If your loved one with dementia is mobile, even if their mobility is limited, there is a risk they may wander. Those with marked memory loss are more likely to do so. This combination – of mobility with impaired cognitive function – is the prime time for wandering.
Our dementia care specialists at our North Devon dementia care home know that the signs of someone prone to wandering differ slightly from individual to individual. Getting to know the individual signs of that person is of paramount importance. However, there are some common indicators:
The short answer is that the best prevention is caring and calm supervision. While this is near impossible for loved ones to do 24/7 in a home environment, it is one of the main benefits of choosing a care home that can care for dementia sufferers.
It is important to strike a balance between allowing individual independence and freedom with safety and security. This is why it really matters where your loved one lives.
Historically, doctors would recommend sedatives and other medications. You should always follow the advice of your loved one’s health care team. However, there is growing evidence that non-medication methods can really make a difference.
Here are some of our top suggestions:
We recommend that you don’t try to prevent wandering altogether. When managed carefully, it can be safe and even a form of exercise. For example, with supervision and in a safe environment like a dementia care home garden, wandering can be a pleasant and reassuring activity.
If your loved one is still at home there are some other measures you can put in place to make the incidence of wandering safer:
Wandering can be a challenge and it can be very worrying for loved ones. It is often a major indicator that it is time for residential care. To find out more about the difference specialist dementia care can bring to you and your loved one, come and visit us at our dementia care home in North Devon and Somerset.