Wandering is a common symptom in people with cognitive problems. It can occur in people with autism, Down syndrome or dementia. Just because wandering is common doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with, however.
As a caregiver, wandering is probably one of the things that worries you most. You may worry about taking Mom with you to the stores for fear that she’ll wander off. You may jump out of bed at night to make sure that Dad is in his bed. Whatever the case, the anxiety associated with wandering can be debilitating.
While there is no direct way to stop wandering, there are steps you can take to better handle the occurrence. Expecting yourself to watch over your loved one 24-hours a day is unrealistic. By making the following changes, you can hopefully give yourself some peace while also keeping your parent safe.
Secure the Home
Install locks on the doors and windows. You can also install alarms that will sound if someone were to open them. A cheaper option is to hang bells on the doors and near the windows to prevent escaping.
Create a Wearable ID
Make sure Mom or Dad has an ID that they wear at all times. Maybe it’s a tag on a necklace or lanyard, or a bracelet they wear. Some caregivers opt for temporary tattoos, which is great if you’ll be out at a public place. This way, if your parent were to be found wandering around, they could be reunited with you.
Increase Physical Activity
Wandering can sometimes be related to pent up energy or anxiety. Getting your loved one out for a walk and some fresh air can reduce the need to wander. Try a supervised walk after dinner. Or if you have a fenced-in yard, let your parent walk around this space
Establish a Regular Sleep Cycle
Sometimes wandering can be linked to poor sleeping habits. Try to get your loved one to follow a predictable sleep routine that includes waking and going to bed at the same times. Reduce napping during the day, if possible, and eliminate caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda.
Put Up Signs
Signs can remind your parent not to leave the home or go through a certain door. It may not work, but it’s a simple and inexpensive way to limit potential wandering. For instance, hanging a giant STOP sign on the front door may remind your parent to stay inside. You can also label the different rooms in the home so that your loved one can get around a bit easier without accidentally winding up outside.