I Wonder Why You Wander

Anyone who cares for a loved one or friend with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia will eventually be faced with the problem of wandering.  More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Association believes that six out of every ten of them will eventually wander.  More than half of these wanderers will become seriously injured or die within the first 24 hours of their disappearance.  As a caregiver, this can become one of your worst nightmares coming true.  Wandering can also occur with those who have autism, Down syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease.  It can occur in many forms and variations ranging from simply pacing back and forth within a room to moving from room to room within the home. At its most dangerous level, wandering away from home or supervised care can leave your loved one in dangerous circumstances. Risks include weather, traffic, and those who can prey on the elderly or disabled.  Combine these factors with the dementia sufferer’s diminished memory and impaired sense of time and direction and you can end up with a loved one who is disoriented and afraid while far from home and perhaps unable to communicate clearly about where they’re from or unable to respond if their name is called.

There are a variety of reasons your loved one may wander and scientists are still not sure why the dementia your loved one suffers from leads to this roaming behavior.  That being said, you need to know that there are some specific triggers for the wandering.  Common medications your loved takes can cause restlessness and result in wandering.  These include thyroid replacement therapy, antipsychotics, diuretics (often prescribed for hypertension), and pseudoephedrine (eg. Sudafed,Drixoral) which is used for colds and congestion.

If your loved one has a lot of excess energy or just the opposite and is very bored, they can have a hard time concentrating and will express it by wandering.   Physical problems or pain as well as stress of any sort can express itself in the need to walk or keep moving.  Any change in environment or daily routine can make a person with dementia disoriented and in an effort to escape from the new routine or environment they may just keep moving. 

As the dementia progresses, the one you care for will start living in the past more and their confusion may lead them to search for someone from a long time ago.  The loss of short term memory may make them forget where they are going and why. Insomnia that often accompanies dementia can cause disorientation and result in confusing night with day and your loved one might go out in the middle of the night.  The dementia can cause your loved one to be unable to differentiate between reality and dreams and they may end up wandering in response to something they actually dreamed. Have you noticed other triggers for wandering by your loved one?  Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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