Wandering in Seniors with Dementia
Seniors with dementia may be prone to wandering or elopement. In assisted living facilities elopement risk is mitigated by redirection and doorknobs that blend in with the color of the door. Family members caring for seniors at risk for wandering or elopement have more options such as locking exterior doors.
Why Do Seniors With Dementia Wander?
Dementia entails confusion and loss of familiarity with surroundings. As a result, seniors with dementia may wander to search for something such as a familiar environment or to satisfy a bodily need while forgetting the original purpose of the search. Other reasons for wandering include escaping noise or other stimuli and reliving a daily ritual such as evening walks or leaving for work. Whatever the reason for wandering steps can be taken to mitigate the risk of elopement for the senior’s safety.
How to Curb Wandering
Assisted living facilities cannot lock doors due to Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 8 of the California Code of Regulations. However, less constricting strategies can be adopted to mitigate the risk of elopement. During times of the day when the senior is restless or prone to wandering provide activities or exercise to reduce anxiety and restlessness. If the senior wants to leave because they feel lost or confused, reassure the senior that they are home and safe. If the senior insists on leaving for an imaged destination redirect the senior to another task while validating the senior’s perception. Some seniors feel the need to wander or elope due to excessive stimuli. If loud environments are prompting the senior to wander try finding a smaller assisted living facility. Other preventative measures for reducing wandering include placing auditory alarms on exterior doors and gates and making sure that the senior is toileted, hydrated, and has eaten.