Wandering is a common but dangerous symptom of Alzheimer’s disease — a degenerative disease of the brain that affects memory and cognition.
Alzheimer’s patients may suddenly walk off and become lost, frightened and confused about where they are, and many do not even know where they are trying to go. Since many of these people can’t identify themselves or where they live, wandering in unconfined and unsecured areas can be very dangerous.
Disorientation, medication, stress, fear or anxiety, and restlessness may all cause an Alzheimer’s patient to wander.
To keep patients safe and minimize wandering, the Alzheimer’s Association of Los Angeles offers these suggestions:
- Make sure the patient is always comfortable and doesn’t need to use the restroom and isn’t hungry or thirsty.
- Try to make sure he receives regular exercise and activity to reduce restlessness and boredom. If he is still capable, let the patient help with daily chores like laundry or light cooking or housekeeping.
- Tell the person often that you are there to help him, and make sure he understands he doesn’t need to be anywhere but right where he is.
- Keep the environment quiet and relaxing — avoid noise and confusion that may frighten the patient into trying to scamper away.
- If possible, keep doors locked and secured to prevent wandering into the street and getting lost.
- Devise a plan of action in the event the patient does become lost — keep current information on hand, like height and weight, and a recent photograph. Also, keep a list of places where the person has wandered previously, or places he used to frequent that he may be trying to find.