Dementia and Wandering: Why Grandpa Goes to Work in the Middle of the Night

Wandering with DementiaWandering is a common behaviour among dementia patients. It is one of the primary concerns of many families who live with loved ones suffering from the disease. Most patients could be away briefly, but long enough to cause sleepless nights for those they live with and care about them most.

Why Dementia Patients Wander

Although the behaviour is called wandering, which suggests aimlessness, experts from RDNS explain that the behaviour actually does have a purpose. Dementia patients walk about and leave homes for many different reasons. It is a known fact that the disease causes confusion, memory loss, and disorientation. This makes them unable to remember faces and places, even a spouse or child, or the house they lived their whole lives in.

There are other factors that contribute to wandering behaviour, however, and it is important for families to be informed so they can think of ways to communicate effectively.

Finding Fulfilment

Some patients wander because they think they have to accomplish a certain task. Often, these are tasks they did in the past. They will walk about, thinking they have to fetch the kids from school or leave for work even if they have been retired for years. Experts say that this is a sign that they feel unfulfilled. Provide a meaningful task for them so they will feel a sense of purpose.

Looking for the Past

Those with dementia tend to look for someone or something associated with their past. They may search for their children, thinking that they are still small and in need of their care. When this happens, take the opportunity to encourage talking about their feelings. There may be factual inaccuracies in their story, but focus on the emotional need, rather than correcting those errors.

Being Confused about the Time

A person with dementia may wake up in the middle of the night, dress up, and get ready for ‘work’. They are usually confused about the time, so placing a big clock near the person’s bed may help. But if the patient’s body clock is the issue, it is best to get professional medical assistance. There are home care professionals who can diagnose the problem and suggest possible action steps for this.

Understanding possible reasons for wandering can help you watch out for “triggers”. Observe your loved one and maintain open communication with them to better meet their emotional needs.