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What Causes Dementia Patients to Wander?

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what causes dementia patients to wander

As an adult child of a parent with dementia, you may constantly worry about their safety. One of the most common concerns that seniors with dementia face is wandering. Wandering can be dangerous, exposing seniors to unfamiliar places and risks that could compromise their overall well-being.

While wandering is common among seniors with dementia, it can be difficult to detect and recognize why it occurs.

Understanding the causes of wandering, such as confusion, restlessness, sleep disturbances, need for stimulation, and memory loss, can help caregivers keep their loved ones safe.

It is crucial to create a consistent and supportive environment that engages people with dementia and helps them feel secure to limit wandering behavior.

What Is Wandering?

One of the most widespread issues regarding people with dementia is wandering. Wandering is when a person with dementia walks aimlessly and has no clear sense of their surroundings. This can be a dangerous situation as it increases the risk of injury and getting lost.

Why Do Dementia Patients Wander?

Seniors with dementia can wander for several reasons, including confusion, sleep problems, restlessness, or discomfort.


Dementia patients may wander because they get confused about their surroundings. They may not recognize their home, the layout of the rooms, or even the people around them. When their environment becomes unfamiliar, they may wander off in search of something recognizable or to find their way back home.

Wandering is caused by memory loss and the effects of other symptoms that come with dementia. Seniors with dementia may experience delusions, hallucinations, and sometimes paranoia.

These symptoms can compel them to leave home to escape perceived dangers or find something or someone they believe is lost. As a result, seniors with dementia may wander around their neighborhood searching for something they have imagined in their minds.

It can be helpful to keep their surroundings consistent and use labels or signs to help them navigate their environment.

Sleep Disturbances

Dementia can affect sleep patterns and cause people to wake up during the night. When this happens, they may wander around the house or outside, not realizing what time it is. To prevent this, it is crucial to establish a routine for sleeping and waking up and to ensure that the environment is conducive to sleep.

Need for Stimulation

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People with dementia need stimulation to keep their minds active and engaged. Dementia patients often spend an extended time indoors. This can lead to boredom, agitation, anxiety, restlessness, and eventually, wandering.

When they don’t receive enough stimulation, they may become restless and wander off to find something to do. It’s important to provide activities they enjoy and keep them mentally stimulated to reduce wandering behavior.

Physical Discomfort

Wandering can also be a sign of physical discomfort. When seniors experience pain, discomfort, or fear, they may feel the urge to move or leave their current situation. For example, seniors may leave home to find a restroom or because it’s hot and stuffy inside.

It’s essential to ensure your loved one’s basic physical needs are met to minimize the likelihood of them wandering.

Warning Signs of Wandering

Anyone with dementia is at risk of wandering, but there are some precursors to the behavior that you can watch for.

  • They get lost on the way to familiar places
  • They talk about wanting to “go home” when they’re already there
  • They talk about needing to fulfill previous obligations, like work
  • They don’t recognize their home and need to be reminded of the location of their bedroom or bathroom
  • They become increasingly restless or pacing
  • They get anxious in crowded spaces like malls or stores
  • They appear lost in their environment

Despite the underlying causes, wandering in seniors with dementia can happen randomly. There may not be an apparent trigger or cause for their behavior, which can be challenging and worrisome to adult children of seniors with dementia.

To keep seniors safe from wandering regardless of the cause or trigger, it’s essential to find a living environment for seniors with dementia so they can receive around-the-clock care.

Keep Your Loved One Safe at Fox Trail Memory Care

It’s natural to worry about your loved one’s safety when they have dementia. Understanding the underlying causes of wandering behavior in seniors with dementia can help you determine the measures to keep them safe.

When living independently is no longer an option, Fox Trail Memory Care provides a safe, secure environment with 24/7 staff to monitor your loved one and prevent wandering. Schedule a visit to meet our team and learn how memory care can adapt to your loved one’s progressive dementia.

Written by adminfoxtrail

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