How to handle dementia-related wandering in your loved one

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For families and caregivers of dementia patients, wandering episodes can be worrying. The unpredictable nature of this behaviour, coupled sometimes with an inability for the person to remember where they’ve been or why, can add to the anxiety of an already challenging situation.

Dementia-related wandering is a common symptom in people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia Australia reports that over 400,000 Australians are diagnosed with dementia, and around 1.5 million Australians help to take care of them.

This tendency to wander can mean that dementia sufferers may be exposed to a variety of risks, including:

• becoming lost, confused, or disoriented

• having an increased risk of accidents, injuries, or falls

• being in dangerous situations, such as crossing busy roads or entering unfamiliar homes or buildings

• being exposed to nutritional deficiencies, exhaustion, dehydration, and exposure to extreme weather conditions.

Marjory Davie, Facility Manager at TriCare’s new Ashgrove Aged Care Residence, says there is hope, however, and we can take measure to try to minimise wandering and keep our loved ones safe,

“Understanding the way dementia works and why people act the way they do, especially the wandering, is the first step towards ensuring safety,” she says.

“Recognising early warning signs and taking preventative steps before the wandering starts can help significantly. This buys time for families to seek a more permanent solution in residential aged care if they think they need it.”

Marjory recommends caregivers of people with dementia who are still living at home:

1. Establish a safe environment free from hazards.

2. Create routine and familiarity to help reduce anxiety and restlessness.

3. Provide reassurance, staying calm and helping your loved one to settle.

4. Provide opportunities for engagement, with meaningful activities throughout the day.

5. Make identification and communication easy, with a wearable bracelet or pendant with your contact information.

6. Identify ‘challenging’ times of the day, and schedule activities to keep your loved one busy at that time.

7. Ensure basic needs are being met, including easy access to a toilet, food and drink.

8. Provide supervision and support, especially during periods of increased agitation or confusion.

By understanding and addressing dementia-related wandering, we can help to create a safer, more supportive environment for both people with dementia, and their caregivers and families.

For more information on dementia care and memory support for seniors, you can contact TriCare on 1300 874 2273.

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