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Reasons for wandering

Feeling lost
People with dementia do not like to be moved around. They get used to the house and area in which they live and feel safe.

When they are moved, they may become anxious and frightened. It is therefore better not to move them unless absolutely necessary. If you do need to, tell them about the move just before you are leaving or whilst you are packing but always reassure them that they will be safe.

Should someone agree to look after the person for you, it is better for the helper to come to the house than to move the person.

Loss of memory
People may suddenly forget what they were doing or where they were going. An example is that they might have gone to visit a friend and then forgotten where they were going and might also not know where they are.

It does sometimes happen that they forget their way home. When they forget they then wander around, lost, and become very anxious.

It is useful to give the person a piece of paper with your name, address and telephone number on it so that if he gets lost, he can ask the way or ask someone to phone you.

Sometimes people wander because they are bored. Try giving him things to do that he might enjoy.

Feeling lonely
May be looking for the companionship of a friend or someone that s/he was close to.

Unfamiliar environment
Perhaps the place is unfamiliar and the person is leaving to find more familiar surroundings.

Check the person’s skin - sometimes when people are sick or in pain, the skin might be pale and sweaty. See if they hold themselves or moan.

Side effect of medication
Some medication may cause people to feel restless or agitated. You will need to discuss this possibility with the doctor or clinic.

Anxious or upset
Something might have happened in the house that has caused the person to become anxious or upset, and he or she wants to get away from it.
Family arguments, shouting or too much noise (like teenagers playing loud music) can be causes.
Try to understand what the problem might be. Ask what is wrong and listen to what the person says.
Talk quietly, reassuring him or her that everything is and will be all right.

Living in the past
This frequently happens with people with dementia as they tend to forget the things that happened recently, and remember things that happened long ago.
Talk about where he is going, and what he is going for.
Do not argue with him. An example would be someone saying he's going to see his mother. Don't say he can't because she's dead. Talk about the mother and hold the person's hand as he might just feel the need for the comfort that he would get from his mother.

Confused about night or day
The person may wake up during the night and think that it is daytime and so start to prepare for the day and wander about the house.
Maybe he or she has wet the bed.
The person might do things that are dangerous, while the rest of the people in the house are sleeping. The best way to solve this is to keep the person as active as possible during the day so that s/he will be tired enough at night.
Try to ensure that normal sleep habits are followed: If he normally went to bed at eleven o’clock, had seven hours’ sleep and then woke up at six o’clock, it is no use making him go to bed at seven o’clock, because he will then sleep from seven o’clock until two o’clock and wake up thinking it is time to get up.

Too dark in the room
It may be too dark for the person to see, so he leaves to look for a lighter area. Do not, however, leave a bright light on in the room. Rather, have a dim night-light.