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Common Reasons for Wandering Behavior in Alzheimer's

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Updated: December 15, 2006

Why People with Dementia Get Lost

There are a number of reasons why many people with Alzheimer's wander away and get lost. It is often that they forget where they are or decide to do something then get lost as they forget what it was they were trying to achieve. This is not always the case and wandering may be the sign of distress or illness. This article looks at some of the most common causes of wandering.

  • Stress, anxiety and wandering behavior in Alzheimer's

  • Although stress and anxiety are a normal and unavoidable aspect of life, the way we cope will depend on a number of things. When you have dementia wandering away may be one way to express stress and/or anxiety. The inability to think things through and then act has a major impact on expression of uncomfortable feelings and

    Wandering away should never be considered a deliberate act with nasty intention. It is very important for someone who has difficulty expressing themselves that we, the caregivers, understand that behavior as another means of communication.

  • Restlessness agitation and wandering behavior in Alzheimer's

  • Restlessness and agitation in Alzheimer's can cause many different types of behavior, wandering is just one of them.

  • Confusion related to time and place.
  • A desire to fulfill former obligations and wandering

  • This can include numerous things; going to work, going to the subway, caring for a husband or child, meeting family and friends.
    I remember one lady in hospital getting other old people to follow her to get the bus to her house. Every day she would spend huge amounts of time looking for the bus stop. Her enthusiasm (or agitation) would be an catalyst for others to follow her.In the institutional setting this wandering behavior could be contained and even made therapeutic. Caregivers in their own home have a much harder time coping with it day after day. It could result in the person with Alzheimer's wandering away from their home.

  • Medication, medication side effects and wandering

  • Drugs used to treat medical illness and conditions can sometimes result in unwanted side effects. An example of this are medications used to treat agitation. Diazepam can result in lessened anxiety but increase disinhibited behavior. Other drugs can cause agitation, or can make someone feel physically uncomfortable. Wandering may result.

  • An inability to recognize the familiar in Alzheimer's

  • Not being able to recognize familiar people, places and objects can cause fear, panic or just the desire to go and find somewhere they do recognize.

  • Fear arising from the misinterpretation of sights, sounds and wandering in Alzheimer's

  • Some people with dementia may run away, get away if they are frightened by something. This may be a result of misinterpreting something going on in their environment.

    For further information about wandering and Alzheimer's disease here are a couple of links. In this article I introduce the topic of wandering and Alzheimer's disease and provides some more detail. Information on research carried out with details for Emergency Services as well as caregivers about wandering behavior pattens and Alzheimer's can be found in this article.

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