Controlling Wandering Behavior

Old Guy

When dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can be very challenging to try and control wandering behavior. Adding to the stress of trying to curb undesired wandering behavior is the anxiety of knowing that uncurbed wandering behavior can lead to your loved one getting him or herself hurt, lost, or even killed. This knowledge makes it exceedingly important to take steps to control wandering behavior in your loved one.

Some Practical Tips for Controlling Wandering

There is a wealth of tricks and tips available to help you and nursing home staff manage the undesirable wandering behavior of your loved one. When you have a wanderer who engages in one of the three easily identifiable types of wandering, namely searching for something, escaping from something, or reliving the past, you are in luck, as these types of wandering are often curbed by removing the trigger that caused the desire to wander. By attending to the trigger, the reason for these types of wandering behavior goes away. For example, if a nursing home resident’s room is located near the facility’s trash compactor, and the noise of the compactor running causes the resident to engage in escape-type wandering, moving the resident to a different room away from the trash compactor would address the trigger and would curb the resident’s wandering.

Some wanderers engage in this behavior because they are lost, despite being in a place that is very familiar to them, such as their home or their section of the nursing home. They could wander from room to room, looking for where they mean to go. For example, it is difficult to use the bathroom when you don’t know where it is located. As such, visual cues, labels or signs, can be very helpful for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Having a sign, or the universal symbol for the bathroom on the bathroom door can be immensely helpful. The sign might remind the resident that that room must be a bathroom, even if he or she has forgotten where the bathroom is.

Often times simply redirecting the wanderer by distracting him or her will cause the episode of wandering to cease. That is why it is very important for those residents who are at risk for wandering to have busy social schedules. By staying involved, active, and engaged, wanderers have little time to let their triggers bother them and engage in wandering.

Sometimes wandering is actually good for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. It can be a form of exercise and can be a stress reliever. In fact, for the most part, wanderers who engage in safe wandering, i.e., wandering along a set route, each and every day without deviation can simply be permitted to do so with supervision. This type of wandering does not need to be curbed but does need to be monitored in case the wanderer decides to leave the route.

If you do not think that the staff at your loved one’s nursing home is doing enough to help your loved one deal with his or her wandering, or if your loved one has wandered away from his or her nursing home facility, it is likely an indication that there is abuse and/or neglect occurring at the nursing home. Please reach out to the Rooth Law Firm online or by calling (800) 598-4348 to discuss your concerns.

Photo Credit: Christiaan Triebert via Compfight cc

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