Alzheimer’s Disease and Wandering- Why This Side Effect Is So Common

Sad and lonely man walking in winter landscape

Alzheimer’s disease has become an increasingly common disease among the senior community. One of the many difficult things about Alzheimer’s disease is that it is so different for each individual who has this condition. However, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease for many individuals is wandering.

Wandering is not only very common, it can also be quite scary as well, especially for the family members and caregivers of these seniors. Of the more than 5.5 million people in the US with Alzheimer’s disease, it is estimated that around 60% wander or eventually develop wandering tendencies throughout their illness.

While there is no way to “cure” wandering in seniors, the more that senior caregivers and family members are aware of the causes of wandering, the more they can try to help their loved one and make sure that they stay as safe as possible given the situation. Here are some of the main reasons why individuals with Alzheimer’s disease tend to wander.

  • Wanting to go home. Many seniors forget that they are home or in the place that they normally live and will decide to get up and leave to go to what they believe is their actual home. This is most common in seniors who are in assisted living communities.
  • Feeling the need to go to work. Some seniors resort back to a familiar time in their life when they are struggling with Alzheimer’s and they tend to wander because they feel they need to go to work or to do some activity that they used to do, such as going to their card club.
  • They get confused. This is perhaps the most common and simple reason for wandering. Many seniors simply forget about where they are and what they are doing. They may feel as though they want to go somewhere but don’t know where, or just start walking because they don’t know what else to do. Most seniors who wander for confusion won’t know what their plan is or where they were intending on going when they wander.
  • Getting lost. Seniors who are in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes get lost or turned around when they are out and about. This can happen suddenly and cause seniors to start wandering around attempting to find out where they are. This can stem from something as simple as getting lost in a parking lot or missing the bus at a bus stop.
  • Wanting to find someone. This is an unfortunate situation and one that causes many seniors with Alzheimer’s to wander. Seniors may forget that someone has passed, such as a spouse, or think that someone they are close to is missing completely. This is a major cause of wandering.

Keep this information in mind. It can help you prevent wandering among your loved ones and it may even help you learn what triggers cause wandering and what to do in case you have found your loved one wandering off.

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