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Why Do Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander?

Wandering is a common and troubling behavior among adults with Alzheimer’s. Here are a few steps you can take to lower your loved one’s risk.

Senior man looking out a window with stress in his eyes.

Wandering is one of the most dangerous behaviors of older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of seniors who have Alzheimer’s will eventually wander.

If the senior wanders from the safety of their home or walks away in a public place, they can become easily confused and lost. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that if an adult with Alzheimer’s isn’t found within 24 hours, their risk for injury or even loss of life is high.

5 Tips to Prevent Wandering in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

People living with Alzheimer’s disease and similar forms of dementia wander for a variety of reasons. They may be searching for something they cannot name, such as food or water. They might have to go to the bathroom but can’t find it. When a senior with Alzheimer’s is restless and bored, they might try to escape what they perceive to be an unfamiliar environment.

The best way to try to prevent wandering is to learn more about the reasons people with memory problems roam. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that caregivers:

  1. Schedule activities: Creating opportunities for the senior to engage in meaningful activity is one way to lower the risk for wandering. Have them assist you with housekeeping chores such as dusting, folding laundry, or setting the table. Arts and crafts projects are another productive activity to try.
  2. Disguise exit doors: Sometimes a senior who is restless or agitated might see an exit door and try to leave. Cues such as car keys or a coat and umbrella by the door may also make them think of leaving. You can avoid this trigger by putting leaving cues in a closet or drawer and disguising the exit. It can be as simple as painting the door the same color as the walls to make it difficult to differentiate.
  3. Offer bathroom breaks: Sometimes a senior with Alzheimer’s can’t remember where the bathroom is. They might wander in search of it. You might be able to reduce wandering attempts if you provide routine bathroom breaks throughout the day for your senior loved one.
  4. Share frequent meals and snacks: Like scheduling routine bathroom breaks, offering the older adult frequent meals and snacks might help too. If verbal communication skills are impaired, the senior might not be able to tell you they are hungry or thirsty. It can cause them to search for food or water.
  5. Control the environment: When the environment is too loud or hectic, it can make it difficult for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease to process everything. That can increase agitation and result in wandering. By carefully managing the senior’s environment, you may lower the risk for wandering.

Memory Care at The Wesley

Our specialized Alzheimer’s care program allows seniors with dementia to live their best quality of life. From dedicated life enrichment activities to specialty menus, every detail is thoughtfully designed. Call us at (518) 587-3600 to learn more.

The Wesley Community