Wandering and Alzheimer’s Disease:
What is it and How Do I Cope?
The term “wandering” is often used incorrectly to describe when a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia moves about in a way we don’t understand, or if they go somewhere we don’t think they should go.
The majority of dictionaries define wandering as an “aimless” movement from one place to another. Unfortunately, when used in conjunction with dementia, it often has an incorrect, negative connotation; “Oh, he’s a wanderer.”
Labeling people this way implies that behaviors which are considered normal for the rest of us, are somehow inappropriate for the person with dementia.
Unfortunately, this also prevents people from seeing the true meaning behind their loved one’s behavior. This often results in improper care.
In order to properly cope with a loved one’s need to move about, you must determine why they are exhibiting a behavior you believe is problematic or unsafe.
What other words might be used to describe the situation?
- Separation – I just want to get away
- Elopement – I want to do something without you knowing
- Exploring – I want to check out that cool thing over there because I’m bored
- Searching – I’m looking for something; maybe a thing or a feeling
- Exit seeking – I want out of here and to go home
- Exercise – I just need to get my blood flowing
There are definitely cases where an individual is disoriented either from medications or from their damaged brain. In these situations their movements may seem aimless, but aren’t they probably searching for a place of safety or comfort?
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