Wandering in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia occurs in three out of five people, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It can result from arising discomfort and fear, or when your loved one is trying to find someone or something. This phenomenon can be dangerous as they can often leave with a destination in mind, but forget directions, encounter obstacles along the way, or realize that the place they intended to go to is imaginary. Read on to find out the most common causes of wandering to better help your loved ones.
Following Past Routines or Doing Past Activities
Oftentimes, older adults with dementia can cognitively revert to the times in the past by attempting to follow a familiar route like returning to an old neighborhood or driving to work, even when they have long retired or moved to a new estate. They may also wander due to past responsibilities they held, such as buying groceries for the family or fetching a child from school, resulting in them trying to find their way to such locations.
Stress and Overstimulation
Sometimes unfamiliar environments and crowded places, such as restaurants or malls, can cause fear in people with dementia. They can be overwhelmed by stress and lose their sense of direction. Loud noises and quick movements can also cause stress. Dementia can affect the brain such that these stimuli are interpreted differently. While someone who does not have dementia might be able to tune out the clashing sounds of television and outdoor noise, these can potentially induce anxiety in your loved ones. The overstimulation may, unfortunately, push them to seek respite and wander from where they are at.
A Decline in Visuo-Spatial Function and Eyesight
Visual-spatial processing is the ability to tell where objects and people are in the spatial realm. Those with dementia have difficulty processing visual and spatial cues. This can happen even in a familiar environment, such as their own home. They may have trouble understanding the layout of rooms, navigating grocery store aisles, or finding house keys. Dementia also dampens the visual-related abilities of your loved ones. Impaired peripheral vision can cause them to be unable to see signages well and inaccurate depth perception can cause them to turn much earlier than intended.
Sometimes, your loved ones with dementia can wander off in search of someone or something not currently present in their environment. It may be triggered by a memory of a childhood friend, or of a treasured object in a home they used to live in.
Older adults with advanced dementia might gradually lose their ability to stand up and walk, climb up and down the stairs, or get up by themselves from the wheelchair. A decline in mobility can lead to disorientation, as when they wish to sit or avoid potential obstacles in their way they may forget their initial intended destination and wander onto an unfamiliar pathway.
Our SHINE® Memory Care program at Rittenhouse Village At Lehigh Valley is nationally recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association®. To learn more about our senior living options, contact us today.