I love to go a-wandering
"I love to go a-wandering, Along the mountain track, And as I go, I love to sing, My knapsack on my back"
Whilst these lyrics will suddenly have you bursting into song and dreaming about walking in unspoilt places experiencing a sense of freedom and tranquillity, for those caring for someone living with Dementia - this is their worst nightmare!
For people living with Dementia, going wandering is quite a common issue. But why do they go a-wandering and what can we do to cope with it?
In many cases, they are often walking with a particular purpose in mind. It can be that they are following a remembered routine or habit. They could suddenly feel that they need to go shopping and that's where they think they should be. If they are bored, it maybe that they will go looking for something to do. If the person used to have a busy lifestyle, it could be that they feel the need to burn up excess energy.
A symptom of Dementia is confusion, so therefore, the person could be trying to retrace their steps in order to attempt to remember what they were doing or if they don't recognise where they are they maybe looking for a familiar place or something that triggers a past memory which they may recognise. They may decide that they want to find an old friend or look for something that they think they have left behind.
Wandering could also be due to trying to find a means of escape if they feel they are in a stressful situation, a noisy environment or somewhere where they feel ill at ease. It isn't just confined to daylight hours, as this can also happen during the night. Someone living with Dementia does not always have a sense of time and although it may be dark, 5 o'clock could be 5pm and not 5am to them.
So how can you deal with it ?
Finally, in the event that they should go a-wandering register their details with the local police - "The Herbert Protocol" - a police initiative which is a national scheme which encourages carers to compile useful information which could be used in the event of a vulnerable person going missing. A downloadable form is available by clicking HERE
- Try to keep calm - keep reminding them where they are and reassure them as much as you can
- Keep the person busy, active and mentally stimulated to avoid boredom
- Establish a routine and try to instill a good sleeping pattern
- Reminiscing can help, so when they say they need to go somewhere from the distant past - use photographs to talk about it and virtually take the trip down memory lane
- Keep coats/shoes etc., out of sight to reduce the temptation to "go for a walk"
- Install motion detectors and/or encourage them to wear a trackable pendant. There are various GPS devices on the market now such as those which slip into wallets/purses (look like bank cards), key fobs and shoe insoles. Picking up your keys/wallet and slipping on your shoes before you leave the house is a habit we all perform and for someone who refuses to wear a pendant this maybe a good option. (Also place GPS insoles inside slippers as Dementia can result in unusual behaviour such as going out in nightwear)