As you are likely aware, there are many challenges that come along with caring for someone who is living with dementia symptoms. Every week, I discuss a new topic with my online Dementia Awareness community on Facebook Live.

A recent important topic we talked about was wandering. In addition to the general anxiety of caring for someone who is exit-seeking, there are many additional challenges to consider that makes this a very important topic:

  • Conflict with co-residents if they are wandering into other rooms.
  • Fatigue from excessive exit-seeking or wandering.
  • Decreased family visits if this becomes identified as a trigger.

While this behavior can be worrisome, it can help the situation to first think about the reasons that it’s happening. One thing to consider is that someone who is attempting to exit may believe they still have outside obligations to fulfill, such as financial or family, because of a lack of insight into their present circumstances. In these situations, they are often trying to fulfill a specific need and it will benefit both of you to attempt to understand the reason behind them leaving.

Another positive perspective to have is that whatever their motivation for wandering is, they are using their remaining cognitive abilities to identify a need and to figure out the best way to accomplish that need.

There are many different scenarios that you may encounter, but it’s important to always stay calm and reassure the person wandering that they are safe, and that you will solve the problem they are experiencing, together. Maintain a positive mood so that they don’t pick up on feelings of panic or anxiety, even if you are feeling that way yourself.

This may surprise you, but it is often beneficial to allow them to leave. This will require a good amount coordination among your staff members to ensure this is safe to do, but it often takes much less energy and has a more positive outcome to sit with someone outside for a short amount of time than to attempt to stop them from leaving.

There are many effective strategies to implement in response to exit seeking and wandering. When you attempt to understand and relate to their very real concerns, they feel seen, heard and loved, which often goes far in de-escalating the situation.

Watch the rest of this topic here and be sure to mark your calendars for my Facebook Live every Friday at 1 p.m. If there is a topic you would like me to focus on for an upcoming Facebook Live, I would love to hear it.

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