Alzheimer’s causes disorientation, which can lead to wandering. According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60 percent of people who have Alzheimer’s wander at some point. Often the individual is;
Searching for something. Wanderers are often looking for something or someone familiar or trying to satisfy a basic need, such as hunger or thirst or using the restroom — but they’ve forgotten what to do or where to go.
Reliving the past. If you see a pattern to the wandering and it seems to happen at the same time every day, it may be linked to a lifelong routine. For example, a woman who tries to leave her assisted living building every day at 5 p.m. may believe she’s going home from work.
Here’s how to curb or prevent wandering, as well as ensure a safe return if your loved one is lost.
Cover the basics. Offer a snack, a glass of water or use of the bathroom. Encourage physical and cognitive activity to curb restlessness and promote better sleep.
Provide visual cues. People who have Alzheimer’s often forget where they are. It might help to post photos on the doors to various rooms, such as the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. It also helps to have color coding to provide direction within the living space and audible cues as reminders that it’s time to do certain tasks.
Plan activities and other distractions. If your loved one tends to wander at the same time every day, a planned activity at that hour could reduce the wandering.
Wandering outside is a health and safety risk. Hiding keys, coats and shoes can sometimes minimize this but often the individual will be safer in a secure environment like a Memory Care Assisted Living. Locally the Cedar Rapids Police Department, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association, has a program called “Operation Loved One”. This offers photographing and fingerprinting of your loved one so in the event of them wandering outside and becoming lost, the police department can assist in locating the lost individual.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton