Walking about or ‘wandering’ is common sign of dementia

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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Dementia can be a devastating condition for both the individual and their family and friends. It is a syndrome associated with the progressive decline of the brain. For this reason, common symptoms revolve around memory and behavioural changes.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, some people with dementia are prone to walking about.

While this might not be an issue in their home, it can cause worry if they venture outside alone or get lost.

The Alzheimer’s Society explains: “Walking is not a problem in itself – it can help to relieve stress and boredom and is good exercise.

“But as with all behaviour, if a person with dementia is walking about – and possibly leaving their home – it could be a sign that they have an unmet need.

“By understanding what they need and looking for solutions, you can help to improve their wellbeing.

“It can be worrying if you are supporting a person with dementia who often walks about.

“They may walk repeatedly around the house or leave the house at any time of day or night.

“People with dementia often have problems with orientation and memory, which may make it hard for them to find their way home.

“This can cause you to worry about their safety.”

If you are someone caring for or supporting an individual with dementia, it is worth trying to understand why they are doing this.

“You might not understand why the person you are caring for is walking about,” the charity says.

“This is why it is often referred to as ‘wandering’. This term is unhelpful because it suggests that the person is walking without purpose, whereas they will often have a reason for it.

“Rather than dismissing the person’s behaviour, it’s important to think about why they might be walking about and how you can help them maintain their independence, safety and dignity.”

The society recommends keeping a journal to write notes about their behaviour and any reasons they might give for walking about as this could help you identify the cause.

There are a number of reasons why someone with dementia might be walking about.

One of these is memory loss.

The society says: “A person with dementia might begin a journey with a particular goal in mind and then, due to short-term memory loss, forget where they were going and become lost.

“Similarly, they might be searching for an item that they have misplaced or think that someone else has taken.

“You can try to prevent this by keeping some of their favourite personal items where they can see them.”

Other reasons for walking about include:

  • Confusion about the time
  • Relieving pain or restlessness
  • Relieving boredom
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Continuing a habit or interest
  • Staying independent
  • Searching for a person or something from the past
  • Feeling lost.

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