Caring for a loved one with dementia is a journey filled with both joys and challenges. Among the difficulties that you as a caregiver may have to tackle, wandering can be particularly distressing. The act of wandering can pose safety risks for your loved one, and addressing it requires a consistent and patient approach.
Here at Home Instead, we want to help you explore various strategies to prevent wandering and promote a nurturing environment for your loved one with dementia. Here are some of our top tips:
Avoid Public Places During Busy Times
Public spaces can be overwhelming for loved ones with dementia. The hustle and bustle, bright lights, and crowds can cause disorientation and anxiety, potentially leading to wandering. To prevent these situations, consider planning outings during quieter hours. Mornings or early afternoons often have fewer people, creating a more peaceful environment for your loved one.
While we encourage you as a caregiver to keep your loved one social, be mindful of choosing places that are familiar or have calming atmospheres. Gardens, local libraries, or small cafes can offer a comfortable setting for meaningful interactions without being too overwhelming.
Ensure Your Loved One’s Needs Are Being Met
One of the key triggers for wandering is unmet needs. Your loved one with dementia might wander in search of something they can't verbally express, but are subconsciously looking for. By making sure their needs are adequately fulfilled, you can reduce the urge to complete it themselves.
Regularly check to see if they are comfortable, full, hydrated, or have used the restroom. If your loved one seems to be experiencing pain or discomfort, their restlessness might be an attempt to communicate this to you.
Establishing a consistent routine for meals, hydration, and bathroom breaks can provide them with a sense of security and lessen their desire to wander.
Implement a Regular Exercise Routine
We all understand the feeling of being antsy when it’s time for bed. If this seems to be the case for your loved one, physical activity of any kind will do wonders for a more settled demeanor as the evening winds down.
We understand implementing daily exercise into your routine as a caregiver may feel like an overwhelming step to the routine. There are many simple additions that can be the perfect form of exercise without taking up too much time.
Our Care Pros often incorporate gentle exercises like a simple walk after dinner, yoga videos online, or playing moving video games, like bowling! What’s most important is to get moving a little bit more and have fun together. By doing something you both enjoy, a habit will form much easier.
Use Devices to Indicate Doors or Windows Opening
Although it’s a bit scary to think of your loved one wandering out of your home without you knowing, as a caregiver it’s better to be safe than sorry.
We are really lucky to live in an age where it’s so easy (and inexpensive) to install an alarm system for your home. Almost every home safety company has a variety of alarms available that fit doors, windows, or any other needs your home may have.
If you don’t want to use a company, something as simple as SimpliSafe has great monitoring options for situations like this for an affordable monthly cost.
Depending on How Advanced Your Loved One’s Symptoms Are, Consider a GPS Tracker
As dementia progresses, the risk of wandering can increase, especially during the night. While the idea of using a GPS tracker might feel invasive, it can be a crucial tool for ensuring your loved one's safety.
GPS trackers are designed to provide real-time location updates, enabling you to quickly locate your loved one if they wander away. These devices can be discreetly integrated into clothing, accessories, or worn in devices like a smart watch. This ensures your loved one's dignity remains at the highest level, while still offering you peace of mind.
If you’re an Apple user, Airtags are a great seamless connection that can be added into your Find My phone features. They are affordable on their own, but can also be purchased in multi-packs if needed.
Caring for a loved one with dementia demands a combination of compassion, creativity, and strategic planning. Preventing wandering requires understanding the triggers behind this behavior and implementing thoughtful solutions to address them.
Although not all of these tips may work for your individual caregiving scenario, Home Instead wants to help. If you’re having difficulty preventing your loved ones from wandering, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Home Instead.