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Why Does Dementia Initiate Wandering?

By Debbie Waddell, 9:00 am on July 19, 2016

Dementia can affect seniors in many ways and lead to unexpected behaviors. One of the most alarming symptoms is wandering. There are many reasons why a senior with dementia might wander, and understanding these causes can help you protect your elderly loved one from a dangerous outcome. Lincoln dementia care experts discuss some of the common causes of dementia-related wandering.

Trying to Fulfill a Need

Your loved one may be thirsty, hungry, or need to go to the bathroom, but also may be unable to identify the specific need or remember where to go. You can reduce your loved one’s risk of nighttime wandering by offering food, drinks, and bathroom breaks at regular intervals. Also, consider leaving a drink and a snack at your loved one’s bedside and ensure the path to the bathroom is clear and well lit.

Experiencing Overstimulation

A noisy and chaotic environment can trigger wandering. Even everyday noises like those caused by TVs, phones, and loud conversations can be overwhelming to a senior with dementia. Your loved one may simply be looking for some peace and quiet. You can help your loved one relax by taking him or her to a familiar environment away from other people and background noises.

Feeling Lost or Abandoned

Certain sounds or even smells may trigger your loved one’s long-term memory of another time and place. Your loved one may suddenly feel the need to “go to work” or “go home” even if he or she has been retired for years or is already home. In these instances, avoid correcting your loved one because it may lead to frustration, confusion, and increased agitation. Try offering your loved one reassurance by saying you thought it would be fun if he or she stayed with you tonight, and you can take him or her “home” in the morning after you’ve both had a good night’s sleep.

Reliving a Ritual

We are all creatures of habit. For example, if your loved one used to take an after-dinner walk every night, that routine is likely ingrained in his or her long-term memory. The desire for such a walk may remain even in the midst of dementia, leading to wandering. Consider hiring a Lincoln respite caregiver to help your loved one maintain this ritual in a safe and supervised manner.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia and you are concerned about his or her safety at home, turn to Home Care Assistance. Our caregivers are expertly trained in dementia care and can help keep your loved one safe, comfortable, and healthy while assisting with a variety of important tasks. For more information on the elder care Lincoln, Rocklin, and Roseville families trust, call one of our qualified Care Managers at 916.226.3737 to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.

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