Dementia and Wandering

Dementia and Wandering can be reduced by keeping active. Balloon volleyball

At the Adult Day Services (ADS) program we have participants that tend to wander. Dementia and wandering are common. Wandering usually occurs because the participant has an urge to “Go.” Usually, that means to “go to” the bathroom, they want “to go” home or “to go/ get away” from something that they don’t understand or find stressful (i.e. how to play a game or do a project). This is why it is very beneficial to have scheduled activities for our group. We have learned that routine keeps our group on task/busy so they do not have to wait or wonder what is going on. During small group activities and games, one might get up and go/get away from the group. If it is not a bathroom matter, we give the participant the option to switch activities or go to another group that is more to their liking. Participants also have the option to relax in the library.


Acknowledge and Redirect – Solutions for Managing Dementia and Wandering


When wandering occurs, first, the staff will see if the person needs to use the bathroom. Many times this is the reason for the “urge to go.” Another reason for wandering is the person is concerned about the whereabouts of a family member – the “urge to go home.” In order to guide the participant back to joining the group, our staff uses acknowledgement and redirection. First, the staff member acknowledges the participants concern and reassures them that their family knows they are here and will be seeing them at their discharge time. Then the staff member redirects the participant by asking him or her to help with a task, tell them what the group will be doing next and/or asking an open ended question. We have learned that wandering is a coping mechanism and allowing the participant to do just that can be a form of relief. Trying to stop the wandering may increase agitation and cause anger or frustration, so if the above suggestions don’t work, we just allow the person to take a stroll.

I have just highlighted three of the most common reasons that a participant might want to wander. Please keep in mind that there are many other possible causes for wandering.