Wandering is something we have all done. As we age, we either wander more often or begin to become more focused in our movements and intentions. Wandering, by its very nature, is a process we often do subconsciously and change our patterns as we age. If you are caring for a loved one who seems to be changing their daily activities, it is important to become familiar with the aspect of wandering and to monitor for any changes as this may be a sign of dementia.
Dementia can often prompt a change in daily movement and daily activities with many dementia patients often demonstrating their first symptoms by engaging in more wandering than normal – a sign of dementia. Commonly referred to as “dementia-induced wandering”, senior adults can become confused and even lost when wandering is not identified and managed effectively.
Consulting with a healthcare professional about your loved one’s wandering should involve some very direct questions from your healthcare professional. Specifically, the healthcare professional will want to ask about the extent to which wandering has taken place. Because wandering is generally classified based upon specific parameters, questions about the duration of wandering, where wandering takes place, and even the time of day of wandering will be quite common. The healthcare professional will also want to know if the dementia patient is intentionally heading to a destination or if the destination is unknown.
Wandering in the dementia patient should not be confused with exploring or meandering. If the environment in which the dementia patient is located seems to be unfamiliar, then what appears to be wandering may actually be a form of exploring or meandering. These slight variances will be important to the healthcare professional as it will determine what type of testing and therapy may be needed.
At any given moment in our lives we all engage in some form of wandering. Considered to be a mindless activity, patients who suffer from dementia often engage in wandering and this can even be the activity that first alerts us to a complication in our loved one. If you see a loved one engaging in a wandering type of activity, it is important to seek the medical attention of a healthcare provider who is specialized in dementia and be prepared to answer specific questions about space, time and place of the wandering type activities. With early diagnosis, dementia cannot be cured but it can be more effectively managed and activities associated with wandering can be minimized.
Sources: Gerontologist, 28, 804-806. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 44, 175-179.