skip to Main Content
Dementia Wandering Prevention: 5 Tips For Caregivers

Dementia Wandering Prevention: 5 Tips for Caregivers

The different symptoms associated with dementia at various stages include memory loss, agitation, and confusion. One of the most troublesome symptoms that many people with dementia exhibit is the urge to wander. 

Why Do People with Dementia Wander?

Dementia affects the brain’s ability to recall memories and store new ones. Some of the most significant changes that people with dementia experience are their reduced ability to remember recent events and their lack of spatial awareness. 

Many seniors with dementia will have trouble remembering events as recent as a few minutes ago. They may also forget where they are. As a result, they might become confused and think that they have to go somewhere or complete some kind of task. These memory lapses, mixed with spatial confusion, often lead to wandering. 

Signs of Dementia-Related Wandering

Some people with dementia will wander only from room to room, but other seniors will go as far as leaving the house or even getting into a vehicle. If a person with dementia talks about wanting to go home when they are in their home, or if they forget where they are in familiar places, they are likely at high risk of wandering when left unsupervised. 

Other signs of potential dementia wandering are high anxiety in crowded areas,  referring in the present tense to people who have passed away, and talking about “obligations” they have to fulfill, such as going to work or picking up their child. 

In many cases, people with dementia will become more confused and disoriented when the sun goes down, and this can make wandering even more potentially dangerous. 

5 Ways for Caregivers to Prevent Dementia Wandering

While wandering is a common behavior for individuals with dementia, there are steps you can take as a caregiver to prevent your loved one from hurting themselves or getting into hazardous situations. 

1. Remove Exiting Triggers

It’s common for a person with dementia to be triggered into action by something small and seemingly insignificant. One great example is car keys, which visitors will often leave by the door when they enter a home. 

An individual with dementia might be perfectly content one moment but then see the car keys at the door, become confused, and suddenly think that they need to be somewhere. 

You can avoid this wandering urge by removing any items that might trigger your loved one to want to exit. Keep your car keys, purse, coat, and anything else you might grab before leaving away from the door and out of sight. This way, you won’t have to worry as much about your family member walking out the door when left unsupervised. 

2. Install Home Security Devices

Security devices are a helpful way to keep tabs on your loved one with dementia when you aren’t with them. Even if you are a live-in caregiver, you may not be able to keep your eyes on them at all times. 

Many of these devices come with motion sensor technology and a camera feed, both of which you can access right from your smartphone. If your family member does end up wandering out the door, you’ll know right away and be able to help them yourself or call for help.  

3. Redirect, Don’t Reprimand 

If you catch your family member in the act of wandering, don’t chastise them for doing something they shouldn’t. This response will often make people with dementia even more emotionally volatile and confused. 

The best way to react to this situation is to gently redirect the individual’s attention to something else. You could ask them a question about a topic that’s unrelated but positive and interesting to them. Another option is to tell them that you need help with something in another room. 

In a few moments, your loved one will have moved on from whatever “task” they thought they had to do and be refocused on something else.

4. Avoid Overstimulation

Excessive stimulation of the senses can cause a great deal of anxiety and confusion for people with dementia. Anxiety is exactly what tends to cause dangerous behaviors like wandering. New places, crowds, and loud noises can all be overstimulating to people with dementia, so your plan of action as a caregiver should be to help them avoid these things. 

5. Supervise as Much as Possible

While there are many strategies you can use to keep your loved one safe when you’re not around, the most surefire way to prevent them from wandering is to supervise them. Depending on the advancement of your family member’s condition, they may need 24/7 care in order to stay safe and healthy. 

Caring for a loved one with dementia is never easy. However, with some understanding of their symptoms and consideration of their triggers, you can improve your family member’s quality of life and enjoy the time you spend as their caregiver. 

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

Back To Top