Providing Support For Both Loved Ones & Carers
Loved ones or carers for people with dementia may worry about them walking freely about as they may become lost or potentially hurt themselves when unattended. It is common to see those with dementia to walk repeatedly around the house or leave the house at any time of day or night. Often, dementia sufferers may have problems with orientation and memory, further making it difficult for them to find their way home leading cause for concern.
Why Do People With Dementia Often Walk Around?
Another word related to walking around is 'wandering' which gives the impression that there isn't a purpose to their walking habits when this simply isn't the case for many.
Confusion Regarding Time
People with dementia often become confused about the time leading them to wake during the night to begin their day or they may get ready for bed midday. To key to reducing confusion is a strict and healthy routine each day such as avoiding naps to ensure a good night sleep in the evening, a reduction in caffeinated drinks after midday and provide an alarm clock with clear am/pm signals with the same set time to wake up each morning. This type of routine can help to structure the day reducing confusion during both day and night.
We've all been there when we've walked into a room and forgot why we went in there. This is the same situation that many people with dementia find themselves in. Whether it was an action, activity or goal they were planning, once forgotten, they may prefer to walk around in the hope of remembering what they were planning to do. To avoid this, you could write a daily planner that they can look at which may remind them of activities or actions they like to do daily.
Another situation could be a misplaced item or the feeling that something is missing. By keeping all of their favourite belongings in well-lit areas of the home, they may be able to relax once they have found what they are looking for.
Some people may walk about to ease pain or areas of discomfort. The habit of walking may reduce the pain or perhaps distract them from it. In some cases, the pained area may not be obvious such as toothache therefore regular checks of the person's daily health can help reduce their wandering.
If you think the person is moving around due to pain, medical professionals suggest that you speak to your GP*
Anxiety & Frustration
When a person becomes restless or anxious about a situation, they may wish to walk around the house or outside to reduce these feelings. Consoling them by asking questions and soothing the person can reduce these feelings when an anxious/frustrating situation occurs.
There is also a medical condition named 'restless leg syndrome' where a person continuously feels to urge to keep their legs moving, both day and night. If you think the person is suffering from this condition, medical professionals suggest that you speak to your GP*
Another situation that causes anxiety is when a person is searching for someone. For example, if you a loved one visits a few times a week, they may look for them when they are not there. A reminder of who visits each week can be placed on their daily planner to help them keep track of who is in the house and when people are going to visit.
Lack of Stimulation
Boredom can set in if a person doesn't have enough stimulation throughout the day resulting in a person wandering to complete an activity. To help with aimless wandering you could provide them with engaging activities such as board games or set up a hobby for them to learn. Completing even the mundanest of tasks such as cleaning the kitchen or organising a bookshelf can help to stimulate the mind to reduce wandering.
As we can see, there are several reasons, and many more, as to why a person with dementia appears to be 'wandering' around at all times in the day. What's worrying to many is the safety of their loved ones should they fall when you are not present.
It's common knowledge that those who suffer from dementia have a higher risk of a fatal fall, and using some of the methods above may reduce the amount of unwanted movement from those who are high risk. Another method to ease worry is to provide a medical helmet that can be worn at home, outside and even in bed. They are air-light and comfortable for all-day wear while protecting the individual's head from a harmful fall.
To learn about medical helmets, check out our extensive guide to medical helmets here.