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Why Do People With Alzheimer’s Wander?
By Frena Gray-Davidson

(Page 2 of 5)

So, why does your Alzheimer Dad go wandering? Make some guesses. Ask questions. Ask him, and then ask yourself:

  • Is he bored? Probably;
  • Is he restless? Sometimes;
  • Is he stuck with absolutely nothing to do? Yes, often.
  • Is he just not used to being this person with dementia?  Undoubtedly.

Think about the average person who has dementia. They’ve lost their previous life and have nothing to replace it.  Caregivers can be so busy that those they care for are often left in a kind of limbo They can be left doing nothing, having nothing and unable to figure out for themselves what to do.

I always look at the problem things they want to do as their communication to us. So, a walker wants to walk. As my nephew would say, “Duh!”   First, everyone else can go walking any time. Except for people with dementia. We even label their walking as wandering. That’s our caregiver jargon which says we don’t want them to do it. It’s dangerous for them and inconvenient for us.  If we don’t help find alternatives,  however, they will walk out when we’re not looking.


  1. The biggest reason never stated for people with dementia wandering is that this is the way they can self-medicate their anxiety and sense of displacement;
  2. That feeling of displacement drives them to walk out of the front door and straight off down the road, going forward endlessly. It is a feeling that instigates walking and it is dementia which keeps it going. Once people have begun walking,  they tend to be  unlikely to ask for help or directions and they tend to go straight ahead.
  3. Boredom and  restlessness also drive people out of their front doors to find presumably some kind of variety.

This is why the smart caregiver creates an activity plan. For your Dad, maybe he needs a drawer all of his own full of the kind of stuff that used to interest him.  Maybe he was a handyman around the home. Then screwdrivers, nails, a hammer – all the equipment of fixing up might keep him happy indefinitely. Maybe a tool box all jumbled up with stuff he can sort out.


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