Handling wandering behaviour of people with dementia
Wandering in dementia is common and is not without risks. For you as a caregiver, the “wandering” can be extra stressful. How do you deal with that?
You wake up at night and notice that your loved one is no longer in bed. Apparently aimlessly she wanders through the house. Because of the locked door, she could not have gone out. Night-time disturbances and wandering are a consequence of the illness that your loved one has. She can not do anything about it and can not explain it either. She has no control over this behavior.
Your loved one might also leave the house during the day without being able to say where she wants to go. She can pace through the room and does not recognize her own house and wants to leave. Maybe she wants to ‘go home’ and she means her parents home. Your loved one might show hyperactivity or restless behavior before she goes astray.
Wandering often calmsdown your loved one. The rhythmic and repeated movement of walking gives her peace. As a result, she almost instinctively walks as soon as she feels uneasy or uncomfortable.
Restless by boredom
Your loved one may no longer be able to knit, puzzle or read a book because of the dementia. Especially when she was used to being active, she can get bored. Too many stimuli are not good for her, but too little neither. Wandering is then a way for her to deal with boredom. If you suspect that your loved ones misbehavior comes from boredom, see if you can find a useful and little strenuous passtime for her.
What can you do?
If you realize that your loved one can not control her wandering, you also know that there is no point in getting angry at her when she has started to wander again. Avoid the discussion and try to take good care of yourself. If you are tired due to sleep deprivation or too many broken nights, do not hesitate to call in for assistance so that you get enough rest. Talk about your irritations, write down your feelings or find fellow sufferers to share experiences.
In addition to taking good care of yourself, you can do a lot to let your loved one wander safely and reduce the unrest.
- At night, lit a light in the hallway and in the toilet and make the house as safe as possible for her with stair gates, well-fitted carpets and locks on the doors.
- Make sure your loved one moves enough during the day and is active so that she is tired in the evening and at night.
- Do not give her caffeinated drinks in the evening.
- Make sure your loved one has some kind of identification on her in the event that someone who finds her can always bring her home.
- Stay calm and reassure her when she returns home.