Wandering is one of the most common behaviors exhibited by those living with memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 out of 10 people with memory loss will wander outside of the home and become lost. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of those who wander risk serious injury or death. In some, episodes can last for a few days, while in others it can go on for months or even years.
Our nice weather may bring on an increase in wandering for those with memory loss. Many times wandering is brought on by a feeling of anxiety. It can also signal a change in the progression of the disease or an infection. It is can be one of the most frustrating, scary and draining times for the caregiver, as they feel the need to always be on high alert. However, if you can take a step back and look at the behavior of wandering as simply the disease trying to speak for your loved one, it may help you understand and provide the patience needed to enter into their wandering world.
Try and find out why your loved one is wanting to go and where are they trying to get. Use your knowledge of their personal history to understand the significance of their need to wander. Perhaps Dad wants to go back to the farm or Mom is trying to go out to her garden. Are there ways that you can help them attain this goal without it causing them harm or frustrating you?
Studies have shown that up to 75% of persons with dementia will have a least one episode of disorientation and the recent warm weather seems to have triggered the need to be outdoors. This is why Azura Memory Care’s Advocacy Team worked to help pass legislation to create and maintain the Silver Alert Program, which helps find elders who have gone missing in the State of Wisconsin. This program has safely returned over a hundred people since its inception, but sadly is activated almost daily during the warmer months. On average the person has been missing for just 6 hours, but is 60 miles from home.
If you have a loved one with memory loss, please go online to Wisconsin’s Silver Alert homepage found at http://www.wisconsincrimealert.gov/silveralert.html to learn more or join our Azura Facebook family to receive notifications when an Alert has been activated. Summer might spark wandering, but we can work together to ensure all of our loved ones are safe!