Remember that wandering is a dementia behavior that happens for a reason. It is our job as caregivers to try to determine the need behind the wandering in order to comfort the person with dementia and keep them safe.
Last time we talked about four different types of wandering behaviors. With the understanding that all behavior is an unexpressed need, what interventions might we try for each of these styles of wandering?
- For the Exit Seeker, you might try door or other entry/exit disguises such as murals, curtains, etc. Seeing the possible ways to exit is triggering the behavior so anything you can do to hide the doors would help. Safety features for exits such as codes or special locks will also be of assistance.
- The Pacer could probably benefit from some regular structured exercise, if they are able to participate. The pacer has pent-up energy, possibly anxiety and is trying to rid themselves of it. Be sure to provide enough nutrition for this person throughout the day because they often are hard to motivate to sit and eat.
- For the Explorer, you should provide lots of same rummaging options along their pathway: baskets filled with soft items, books, laundry, any safe items that are not breakable or digestible. Any items of value or that are dangerous, such as medications or chemicals, should be safely locked away.
- The Follower can sometimes benefit from a simple task to do while they are shadowing. It helps to try to figure out what type of person (male or female, other descriptions) that the person responds to. They are often just seeking comfort or companionship from someone who looks familiar to them. Sometimes particular staff (if you are in a facility) look like a comforting person to them or at home, certain family members may fill this role.
We'll wrap up next time with some general wandering tips. What interventions have you used successfully with wandering behaviors?