There are many types of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia etc.

Wandering is common among people with dementia due to:

Memory Problems / Memory loss

  • ​​​The person may set off to the shop and forget where he/she is going or why.

​​Searching for familiar persons / items / place

  • ​The person may wander off in search of someone or something relating to their past when he/she becomes confused.​​ Confusion about time and place is one of the symptoms of dementia.

​Expressing boredom or anxiety​

  • ​​​​The person may find it hard to concentrate as dementia progresses; hence, wandering is a way to keep themselves occupied.

Confusing night with day

  • ​The person may suffer from sleep problems, or wake in the early hours and become disoriented. He/she may think it is daytime and decide to go for a walk.

Continuing a previous habit

  • The person who is used to walking long distances may simply wish to continue to do so.

Physical discomfort or pain​

  • The person may walk to ease discomfort that is caused by uncomfortable clothes, excessive heat or the need to go to the toilet.

Change of environment​

  • ​The person may feel uncertain and/or disoriented in a new environment such as a new home environment or daycare centre.

​Tips on Managing Wandering Behaviour

Wondering how to stop dementia patients from wandering? Depending on the personality of the dementia patient and how well he/she can cope, their reasons for wandering and the safety of their surrounding environment, you or their caregivers can consider the following management strategies:

Identify

  • ​​Physical check-up helps to identify the presence of any illness, pain or discomfort.
  • Get the person with dementia to carry ​identification such as an identity bracelet or card with their names, addresses and/or contact numbers. This can be helpful when he/she is found by others/police.
  • ​Identify the wandering behaviour patterns of persons with dementia by keeping records or a diary. E.g. does the behaviour show up at certain times of the day or in response to certain situations which can be carefully controlled.​ ​

​Remove

  • ​You can try to prevent wandering behaviour by reducing objects that may prompt or encourage the person with dementia to wander, e.g. handbags, house keys.
  • Remove any obstacles to allow the person with dementia to wander about safely – ensure supervision is available and the person with dementia has steady gait at all times.

​​Distraction

  • ​Engage or distract the person with dementia through a simple and quiet activity that is familiar to them from their earlier days.

When a person with dementia goes missing, you or the caregiver should:

  • ​​​Remain calm.
  • Make a thorough search of the house and familiar places.
  • Try to remember what he/she was wearing.
  • Walk or drive around the vicinity and/or to any places he/she may visit regularly. Have someone to stay at home in case he/ she returns home or to answer any phone calls.
  • Contact the police if immediate searches yield no result. Tell them the person has dementia and any concerns you have for their safety.​

​When he/she returns home:

  • ​​Notify the police immediately.
  • Do not scold or show any anxiety as this may confuse or frighten them.
  • Provide reassurance and get back into their regular routines as quickly as possible.

Managing Wandering Behaviour in Dementia (PDF).

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