Blog

Keep the wandering behaviour of your seniors harmless

Elderly walking towards light

Walking around in a secure living environment doesn´t necessarily pose a problem, so long as the wandering behaviour doesn´t endanger your resident and doesn´t cause too much work for the caregiver. But to ensure this, you do have to take the right actions first. How do you best deal with elderly individuals having dementia who tend to wander about? And what expedients exist to increase safety and avoid problems in case of wandering behaviour?

Why do these seniors wander?

Demented seniors who exhibit wandering behaviour seem to walk around aimlessly. Sometimes as a result of the medication they are taking, in other cases because they have lost their grip on reality to some extent.

But the reason can also be emotional. Some elderly individuals with dementia engage in wandering behaviour because they want to ´go home´ (often back to their parents´ house), or due to stress and anxiety: they´ve ´lost´ someone, they don´t recognise their surroundings. And maybe they´re bored: earlier in life they could do lots of things; now, not so much. In any event, the elderly can´t do anything about their wandering behaviour. They have no control over it.

This is a portrait of my mum, trying to show through her facial expression the warmth in her character as well as all the experiences that she has lived in her life. I did the portrait from the living room in the home she has been living for most of her life.
Wandering behaviour can occur during daytime and at night. Many elderly individuals suffering from dementia become agitated during the night: they want to go to sleep unusually early, or not at all, they have trouble falling sleep, they toss and turn in bed ... or they get up in the middle of the night and walk around.

Nocturnal agitation, too, often has a cause. On the one hand, the sleep-wake rhythm of these people is disrupted. On the other, something is triggering the agitation. Maybe the elderly wish to communicate something. Maybe it is purposive behaviour, aimed at accomplishing something or satisfying a need ...

How do you help seniors with dementia and wandering behaviour?

During the day, wandering behaviour doesn´t have to be a major problem. Often the resident will calm down thanks to their own rhythmic and repeated movement. And walking is also intrinsically healthy. But safety mustn´t be compromised. Because demented seniors with wandering behaviour can get lost, fall or cause something without meaning to. In addition, the behaviour places an extra burden on the caregiver – things have to remain feasible for him or her as well.

Is an older person with dementia engaging in wandering behaviour? Then the question becomes: why is this person wandering about? You have to find out those feelings and thoughts, so that you can work with them.

Does it have to do with a situation that you can prevent? If it is about boredom, then a new, useful, restful activity might help. Does someone want to go ´home´? This urge might disappear by turning the environment into even more of a home, with photos from the past, favourite music ... Is someone getting up in the middle of the night, and does he or she not recognise the surroundings? Then technology will help - more about that in a moment.

Steer wandering behaviour onto safer paths

Independent of all the foregoing advice, it is naturally crucial that you make the environment safe. Technology is one of the ideal means for keeping dementia-related wandering behaviour within limits. With an environment that causes as little confusion as possible and simplifies the small battles of day-to-day life.

Suppose that someone wakes up in the middle of the night, doesn´t recognise where he or she is, gets up and goes strolling about aimlessly. In that case, smart lighting technology like LynX® lifeline can subtly darken the hallway and the door in the exit direction, while making the path to the room, living space and nursing station brighter. In this way, elderly individuals with wandering behaviour will be intuitively drawn in the right direction.

At the same time, LynX® lifeline makes it possible, night and day, to locate wandering seniors inside the building.

If the residents wear a bracelet, its signal is captured by Bluetooth beacons integrated into the lighting fixtures of LynX® lifeline. In this way, the demented seniors with wandering behaviour appear on a map, in the alarm and communication platform LynX® connect.

On the map you can not only detect but also follow elderly individuals with dementia and wandering behaviour throughout the building. As a caregiver, you are alerted on your mobile phone in both cases. These resources enable you to react quickly in case of wandering behaviour and keep elderly individuals with dementia safe.

At the same time, you must create an environment in which people can walk around, because of course you don’t want to lock them up. Then too, the combination of LynX® connect and lifeline can offer security, with certain doors closing automatically when the resident approaches them. And in order to prevent people from falling while walking, you should emphasise e.g. movement programmes. Personalised and regularly repeated, that is what helps the most.

Curious about how LynX® lifeline can help you?

Written by Francis Meulemeester