Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Dementia is not the name of a specific disease condition but is rather a set of symptoms which directly affect the memory power of an individual. It also impacts the ability of an individual to think and focus on tasks clearly. These symptoms gradually progress to such a stage where even performing simple tasks of daily living becomes a challenge. It should be mentioned here that dementia does not constitute just memory loss and if an individual has memory issues that does not in any way suggest that the individual has dementia.

Dementia is seen mostly in the elderly population with Alzheimer disease being the primary cause. Dementia occurs as a result of damage to the nerve cells in the brain. However, how severe the dementia will be is totally dependent on the extent of the damage and the location in the brain where damage has occurred. There are also some cases of dementia which are temporary caused due to medication reaction or vitamin deficiencies which tend to get better after administration of medications.

In people who have progressive dementia mainly due to Alzheimer Disease, wandering is one problem that patients and their family members have to deal with. The patients normally are normally in the eight decade of their lives or even more. Such patients are literally unaware of what is transpiring and tend to go out of their way and end up in situations which may be dangerous. Thus protecting the individual who wanders should be the top priority of the family members. Below mentioned are some of the ways to deal with wandering in dementia patients.

How to Deal With Wandering Dementia Patients?

People with dementia are not aware of what they are doing thereby putting themselves as well as others at risk. Studies show that 5 out of 10 people with dementia tend to wander at some point in their illness. There is no stage of the disease as such where wandering starts. However, there are a few measures that the family members or caretakers can take to protect the patients from any impending dangers.

Safety is Top Priority

As long as a dementia patient can ambulate there will always be the risk of them wandering without knowledge. The following steps can be taken to prevent the patient from wandering:

  • To begin with, the patient should be listed in a medical alert system so that in case of wandering immediate steps can be taken. The family members or caretakers should ensure that the dementia patient carries identification card mentioning the name and complete address and contact number of the caregiver at all times. A medical bracelet is also a handy tool to have for dementia patients.
  • Keep the neighborhood informed about the condition of the dementia patient and the chances of the patient seen wandering around the house.
  • Ensure that all the details of the dementia patient is available with the caregiver like any other intercurrent illness, medications that the patient is taking, diet, and any other information that is deemed appropriate so that in case of wandering others may use this information.

Keep the Home Well Prepared

There are certain measures that can be taken at home to prevent the dementia patient from wandering:

  • Ensure that the doors and outside gates are always locked. Also ensure that the locks are at a height that the patient cannot reach. An electronic door lock is always a good choice. It should be noted here that at no point should a patient with dementia should be left alone in the house.
  • Try and paint all exit doors with the color of the walls so that the patient is not able to distinguish between the door and the walls. This will prevent the dementia patient from wandering outside the house.
  • Make sure that the yard is properly fenced and the main gate is locked just in case the dementia patient is able to go out of the house to prevent him from going out in the street.
  • An alarm system can be put on the door so that every time the exit door is opened the alarm goes off and the caregiver will know whether the patient has wandered out.

Safety Precautions Should be Maintained Everyday

It has been seen that even all precautions taken, dementia patients still end up wandering. This is especially true when they get confused, get bored, or are disoriented. There are also certain other measures that can be employed to prevent such incidents. These are:

  • Keep the dementia patient hydrated, nourished, and is taken to the restroom periodically as patients tend to wander when they feel hungry, thirsty, or feel an urge to use the restroom and then they tend to lose their way.
  • The room of the dementia patient should be provided with enough space for the patient to move around and not clustered with too much furniture.
  • Try and engage the patient with things that they were or are interested in
  • Ensure that the dementia patient is able to do minimal tasks like folding clothes or cleaning the room to keep them engaged such that incidents of wandering maybe reduced

Case Study

Joseph, a 90-year-old engineer from Iowa, was diagnosed with senile dementia of Alzheimer type some time back. He now stays alone in a gated community. He had a habit of taking walks around the township every morning and evening and thus is known by many people living there. At times, he used to fall asleep in the community park bench and when this came to the knowledge of the family members they hired a caregiver for him. This brought about a positive change in Joseph and there was significant improvement in his condition.

After some time, the family came to know that Joseph had been seen wandering around the house especially at night. In one case, he even went out of the township into the main street. This was a cause of the worry for them as there was always a chance of someone take advantage of his illness. Joseph was fortunate that nothing of that sort happened and with timely intervention and following some of the steps that have been mentioned above the wandering episodes of Joseph have come down significantly.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: December 21, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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