Published on: November 15, 2015
by Mary Chaput for Capital Gazette:
Q – The doctor says my mother has dementia. I understand that the dementia makes her forgetful, which is why I moved her in with me, my wife and children. But she is constantly trying to get out of the house and says she wants to go home. Even in the middle of the night, she wanders all over the house. Would it help to post signs up at the doors reminding her that she is home?
A – Memory loss is only one aspect of dementia. Wandering is very common and can be caused by many factors.
Individuals with dementia wander when in an unfamiliar setting or when the setting is overwhelming. Constant noise, such as from a television left on, can be overstimulating and individuals may search for a safe, quiet area.
Persons with dementia are often searching for something, although they may not remember what they are searching for. They may be looking for the bathroom or for something to eat. Oftentimes, they wander because they are bored or because they are reacting to old memories, such as going to work or to the grocery store.
Wandering in itself is not necessarily bad, as long as the individual is in a safe environment. Ensure there are no safety hazards in the house (scatter rugs and extension cords she could trip over) and make sure the house is well lit. If you have stairs, put a gate at the top to prevent falling.
Make sure that she is unable to unlock the doors to go outside; you may need to put a deadbolt toward the top of the door. You can also add door knob safety covers on outside doors. Sometimes a dark-colored floor mat in front of the door will deter someone with dementia from venturing out.
In addition to living with her dementia, the move to your home has added to her confusion. Wanting to go home is also a common expression and a desire for safety and familiarity. Instead of correcting her and trying to orient her to the current living situation, go “home” with her by asking about her memories. What kinds of flowers did she grow? What was her favorite room?
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