Wandering as well as rummaging is common among people with dementia. It is related to the confusion and loss of short term memory. When wandering people will often say that they are going home. But what if they are already home? Since dementia is taking the most recent memories first, the home they are referring to is often the one they lived in their childhood or youth or the one the most happy memories are associated with. That is why the current place of residence should be made as "home like" as possible, which can be achieved by using the same furniture or putting old photos of the original place around.
You cannot stop the person from wandering, but you can ensure the safety of the person when wandering occurs by following the principles listed below:
1. If the person with dementia wanders during the night, put mattress on the floor.
Because it prevents falls when patient is confused.
2. Have the person wear MedicAlert bracelet that cannot be removed (with name, address, and telephone number). Provide police department with recent pictures and alert local police and neighbors about wandering.
Because in this way the person can easily be identified by police, neighbors, or hospital personnel. It reduces the time for the person to return back safely.
3. If the person is in the hospital, have him or her wear brightly colored vest with name, unit, and phone number printed on back.
Because it makes the person easily identifiable.
4. Put complex locks on door or place locks at top of door.
Because it reduces opportunity to wander and in moderate and late Alzheimer’s-type dementia, ability to look up and reach upward is lost.
5. Encourage physical activity during the day.
Because physical activity may decrease wandering at night.
6. Explore the feasibility of installing sensor devices and web-based GPS system.
Because sensor provides warning if the person wanders. GPS can help locate the person.
9. Use a bed monitor.
Because it alerts staff if the person has left his or her bed during the night.
You can also try to distract the person from wandering by asking them to tell about home or offering to engage in another activity. Be empathetic and patient - wandering as well as other seemingly illogical actions have a purpose in the mind of the person with dementia. Understanding that will help you approach the situation avoiding irritation or anger.
Let's take a look at the video below and consider what would be your reaction when the person with dementia you are in contact with wanders! Please, always follow your local practice regulations and think of this video as a thought provoking example!