Long-Term Care

Reasons for wandering

LTC Nursing Assistant Trainer, March 24, 2011

Wandering usually has a purpose. It may be a form of communication when language skills are lost. A resident with dementia may be trying to communicate that he or she needs to urinate, or perhaps he or she is hungry or thirsty, or needs to rest. Many things can trigger wandering, such as loud background conversations, noise from kitchen utensils or other items being used nearby, or a loud TV. There are other reasons for wandering:

  • If wandering occurs at the same time every day, it may be an old routine that causes it. For instance, if a resident attempts to leave every day at 5 p.m., he may believe he is going home from work. When he sees staff leaving, it reinforces his thought.
  • If wandering usually occurs in the late afternoon or evening or during the night, the individual may have Sundowners syndrome. Sundowners is also called nighttime confusion. When it begins to get dark, the person becomes increasingly more confused and may act very anxious, agitated, or angry.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Excess energy or curiosity.
  • Discomfort, pain, stress, anxiety, or agitation.
  • Being in a new environment.
  • Inability to recognize familiar people, places, and objects.
  • Trying to express emotions such as fear or loneliness.
  • Medication side effects.
  • Sight of things that trigger memories (e.g., boots and a coat next to the door may signal it is time to go out).
  • Fatigue. Residents with dementia tire easily and become restless.

This is an excerpt from the HCPro book, The CNA Training Solution, Second Edition.

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