Healthy Living

Wandering and Dementia

Wandering and Dementia

Key Takeaways

  • Wandering can be common to people suffering from dementia.
  • Dementia is a chronic disease in which there is a substantial decrease in remembering things effectively, and this decrease is much worse than normal aging. 
  • Dementia is primarily caused by damage to the brain cells causing interference in the person's ability to communicate with other people.

What is wandering?

Wandering is an act of aimless movement mostly done by people who are suffering from some neurological problems such as dementia and autism, among others. These conditions affect most of the elderly and young children. Therefore, parents of young children who have autism or sons and daughters of the elderly people suffering from dementia have to be present around them 24/7 to take care of them or employ someone to take charge. The worst part is worrying about your loved ones.

Wandering can be common to people suffering from dementia. If you have been caring for a person with dementia, you know how stressful it can become. One minute they may be standing beside you, and the next moment, they are nowhere to find. Such behavior cannot only be stressful for the caregiver or family member, but it can be more dangerous for the one who is wandering.

According to experts, more than 50 percent of people with dementia wander in the duration of the disease. Though people who wander may seem moving aimlessly, they have a reason or need when they are doing so. Primarily, they may wander for the following reasons:

  • To meet the basic need of human contact, which may not be satisfied during the course of the disease.
  • If they are hungry or thirsty.
  • If they are confused or in a noisy environment.
  • They may be in pain or other types of distress.
  • They want to use the toilet and answer nature’s call.

Dementia: The Medical Condition 

Dementia is a chronic disease in which there is a substantial decrease in remembering things effectively, and this decrease is much worse than normal aging. There are a wide number of causes including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, syphilis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Some cases have been contemplated in which dementia has become hereditary. Unfortunately, dementia cannot be cured but certain medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and therapies such as cognitive therapy are available to improve the health of the patient.

Dementia is a progressive medical problem where symptoms are seen slowly but can gradually get worse with time. Symptoms of dementia include impaired reasoning, memory loss, limited social skills, and overall inability to perform daily routine functions. If your family member, especially your parent or grandparents are experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t ignore them and see a doctor as soon as possible to identify the cause of such behavior. 

Some Statistics…

According to current statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), 47.5 million people are affected by dementia and around 7.7 million new cases are being registered every year. According to Alzheimer's Reading Room by Bob DeMarco, about 125,000 people wander off. Of those found within 12 hours, 93 percent survive. Seven percent don't. Of those lost more than 24 hours, only a third survive. Of those lost more than 72 hours, only 20 percent survive. These statistics are really sad for our community of health care providers.

Causes of Dementia

Dementia is primarily caused by damage to the brain cells causing interference in their ability to communicate with each other. The brain has different regions that are responsible for carrying out different functions. Thus, if cells in an area of the brain are affected, the individual’s function in that area will be impaired.

In dementia, brain cells die more swiftly than in the normal aging process. Gradual changes and damage in the brain can occur due to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain. In another type of dementia known as vascular dementia, blood supply to the brain is interrupted causing damage to the brain cells. This may be due to atherosclerosis. However, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Other forms of dementia include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.

Treatment for Dementia

Most types of dementia cannot be cured except those caused by thyroid hormones and vitamin deficiencies, which can be cured with supplements. For people with high blood pressure, excess cholesterol, and type 1 diabetes, it can be managed by controlling these underlying problems. However, the most important treatment for people with dementia is the care and support they receive from their loved ones, caregivers, friends, and other healthcare professionals.

Why is taking care difficult?

Nowadays, career has become challenging, and therefore, staying at home and taking care of loved ones has become quite unmanageable. Then, what about hiring a person to take care of your loved ones? Well, they are not a family member. Their emotions toward the person with the disease are totally different. Moreover, poor environmental conditions such as loud unfamiliar noises, poor lighting, and dirty surroundings can make their neurological problems worse.

What are the options available to prevent wandering?

  • Having a daily routine and following it strictly will help keep an eye on the elderly people.
  • Ensuring that the person’s daily needs are met.
  • Avoiding busy and crowded places because it can cause disorientation.
  • Camouflage doors by painting them with the same color as the walls.
  • Ask neighbors and friends to call if they see the person alone.
  • If a person wanders off, then search the immediate area for 15-20 minutes, and then call 911.

Individuals with dementia often feel vulnerable, anxious, depressed, and in need of love, support, kindness, and reassurance. People who are closest to them, which are their family members, should be ready to help and go out of their way at times to make them feel loved and cared for. Communicating with a person who has dementia can be difficult, but it is important that you still communicate. Using positive body language and touch is important when you communicate with them.

It is also important that you monitor their eating and drinking habits because they are forgetful. Follow the advice of a dietitian in managing their diet so that they will get the optimum nutrition they need. If you’re caring for a family member with dementia, it may be a good idea to have a professional caregiver or nurse to take care of their grooming and personal hygiene needs at home.

Taking care of people suffering from dementia is essential. With proper care and pampering, the ill-effects of dementia can be minimized.