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Dealing With Wandering in Dementia Care

Aged Care

Updated 25-01-2024

Dealing With Wandering in Dementia Care

Dementia is a progressive neurological condition that affects millions of individuals globally, and wandering is one of the most challenging behaviours associated with it. This involuntary roaming can create substantial stress for both the individuals suffering from dementia as well as their carers. Understanding the causes of wandering and developing effective strategies to manage it is critical in ensuring the safety and well-being of people with dementia.

Understanding the Underlying Causes

Before diving into strategies for managing wandering, it's essential to acknowledge the various reasons why an individual with dementia may wander. Common causes include:

  • Confusion and Disorientation: As cognitive function declines, familiar places become unfamiliar, prompting individuals to wander in search of something recognisable.
  • Basic Needs: A person with dementia might wander to satisfy basic needs such as hunger, thirst, or the need for the toilet.
  • Restlessness and Boredom: A lack of physical activity or mental stimulation can lead to restlessness and a desire to move around.
  • Past Routines: The individual may be trying to follow a past routine or habit, such as going to work or shopping.

Proactive Measures and Environmental Adaptations

Enhancing Safety Through Environmental Design

Creating a safe and wander-friendly environment reduces risks associated with wandering. Consider the following environmental modifications:

  • Install secure locks on doors and windows.
  • Use strategically placed motion sensors to alert carers when an individual with dementia attempts to wander.
  • Implement night lights to guide individuals during nocturnal wandering.
  • Create a secure outdoor space where individuals can freely explore without the risk of getting lost.

Engaging Therapeutic Activities

Engaging the person with dementia in meaningful activities can help to reduce restlessness and the impulse to wander:

  • Tailor activities to the individual's interests and abilities, such as music therapy, gardening, or simple crafts.
  • Schedule regular physical exercise to reduce anxiety and improve sleep patterns.
  • Incorporate cognitive activities that can help to stimulate the brain, such as puzzle solving or memory games.

Communication and Behavioural Strategies

Effective Communication Techniques

Open and empathetic communication is vital. Carers should:

  • Remain calm and patient, reassuring the individual if they appear disoriented.
  • Avoid confrontation, which can exacerbate the desire to wander.
  • Use simple and clear language to help orient the person to their current environment.

Understanding and Redirecting the Behaviour

It's important for carers to recognise triggers and patterns in wandering behaviour:

  • Identify times of day when wandering is most likely to occur and prepare alternative activities or distractions.
  • Redirect their focus from wandering to a different but safe activity, if possible.
  • Learn to recognise signs of agitation or anxiety that may precede wandering and intervene early.

Technological Aids and Community Support

In the digital age, technology can play a pivotal role in managing wandering in dementia care:

  • GPS tracking devices can provide peace of mind, allowing for real-time monitoring of an individual's location.
  • Wearable tech can also offer features like geo-fencing, alerting carers if the person wanders beyond a pre-set safe zone.

Additionally, community support networks can be instrumental:

  • Enroll in local support programs designed for the safety of individuals with dementia.
  • Educate neighbours and the local community about dementia to foster a supportive environment.

Training and Support for Carers

Carers themselves need knowledge and resources to effectively manage wandering:

  • Professional training on dementia care tailored to address wandering and its challenges.
  • Access to support groups for carers, where they can share experiences and strategies.

Final Thoughts

Wandering in dementia care poses significant risks, but with thoughtful intervention, safety risks can be mitigated. It is imperative to create an environment that combines safety, stimulation, and the preservation of dignity for people with dementia. By understanding the reasons behind wandering, employing effective management strategies, and leveraging both technological aids and community resources, carers can provide compassionate and effective care for individuals living with dementia.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow care workers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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