Typically caused by Alzheimer’s, millions of Americans aged 65+ live with dementia. As their cognitive function continues to decline, caring for an elderly loved one with dementia can be challenging even on the best of days. In addition to confusion, memory loss, and agitation, many dementia-afflicted seniors also start to wander off when it’s least expected. As an informal caregiver, keeping your loved one with dementia safe requires the ability to manage the triggers that cause wandering in the first place.   

Why Do Seniors with Dementia Wander Off?

It’s not unusual for someone with dementia to suddenly wander off in a random direction for no apparent reason. These triggers usually cause the episodes:

  • Hunger pangs. Experiencing late-night hunger pangs is one trigger that might cause a senior to wander off.
  • Pain relief. Discomfort makes it hard to relax, so your loved one may be walking around to decompress.
  • Toileting urgency. Another late-night wandering trigger is an urgent need to use the bathroom.
  • Time confusion. It’s not uncommon for a senior with dementia to suddenly start living in the past while forgetting what day or year it is. As a result, they may think that it’s time to leave the house and head to work or an appointment.
  • Hallucinations. Notably, during the later stages of dementia, psychosis can occur. The resulting hallucinations are sometimes so terrifying that it causes the person to flee the home.

Once wandering episodes become more frequent finding ways to minimize behavior triggers is essential for ensuring the safety and comfort of someone with dementia.

How to Manage Wandering Triggers

Managing the triggers that cause wandering episodes is possible by taking these steps:

Recognize the triggers

Take time to identify any triggers that might make your senior feel lost, confused, or scared. For example, Sundown Syndrome can trigger strange behaviors once the sun starts setting. If your loved one has a tendency to wander off right after going to bed, they might be hungry or just need to use the bathroom.

Stick to a routine

Because their long-term memory is better than their short-term memory, following a strict routine is important for someone with dementia. Sticking to a schedule will provide the much-needed structure that helps eliminate time confusion and other triggers. If hunger is causing your senior to wander at night, try feeding them several light snacks during the day, including one right before bedtime.

Avoid crowded places

Seniors with dementia can get easily distracted if something or someone attracts their attention. If your loved one tends to wander off in noisy, crowded environments avoid busy places like ballgames, shopping malls, and grocery stores.

Provide close supervision

Never leave your senior alone in a car, park, or building- even in a familiar place. You may think that your loved one is secured but someone with dementia that’s frightened or feeling distressed can be quite creative in finding ways to escape. Be sure to provide close supervision so that you can reassure your senior if they start acting uncomfortable or agitated due to their surroundings.

Install security locks and alarms

Whenever you are at home with your loved one be sure to keep all the windows and doors locked. Install the locks in nontraditional places where they can’t find them. You can even put in a home alarm system that notifies you when a door or window has been opened. Placing a sensor pad in their bed is another way to alert you if they get up in the middle of the night.

Compassionate In-Home Dementia Care for Seniors in Virginia

It’s hard to keep an aging loved one with dementia safe and comfortable when you can’t spend enough time with them. AmeriCare Plus has been providing independent seniors in Virginia with care, compassion, and security in the comfort of their own homes for over 26 years now- including those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As a family-owned senior care business, our highly trained professionals provide in-home support that helps clients lead happier, healthier, more productive lives.

With 10 convenient locations, our compassionate caregivers can deliver services including hourly personal care, 24-hour live-in care, companion care, respite care, and post-operative care.  Led by Team Teal, AmeriCare Plus is one big family taking care of your family! To learn more about our senior care services now, or to schedule an initial home care consultation for a loved one in our service area, please visit us at www.americarepluspc.com.

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