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Alzheimer's

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

(Page 3 of 5)

How about having him sweeping up the leaves in the backyard? Filling bird-feeders with seed? If you get him weeding, be prepared for the consequences of a person with dementia who no longer knows a weed from a treasured garden guest.

When we craft an activity plan for our family member with dementia we look for something which evokes what was familiar in a way that doesn’t hold to forgotten standards. And as the caregiver, we commit to letting go of our standards of perfection.

The activity works simply by absorbing the person.  Sometimes, your Mom could wash and dry the dishes.  So what if you have to redo them? Mom felt useful and helpful and it brought back to her a life in which she was the woman who held the family home together.

These activities fill time, yes, but they also remind people who they were when they did not have dementia. I doubt they think it through in that way, though. I suspect they simply feel a more peaceful, more settled sense of belonging. 

The desire in the dementia wanderer is often simply to want to go somewhere, anywhere but where they are.  In assessing problem dementia behaviors, we always look at both the obvious message and the metaphor. Dementia allows people to operate at a number of different mental levels all combining into this present moment  – which in itself might actually be South Dakota, 1926, for the person with dementia. Time zones may blend as that person’s life has now blended into its own story, nearing completion.

How do we bring satisfaction to the wanderer? Well, obviously, an actual walking program is a great idea. The caregiver need not be the one to do this. Ask a family member, a neighbor, a high school kid you trust, a volunteer from the senior center  – any of whom can be great company on a walk. Hire someone to do the daily walk – it’ll be a good investment.

To organize this, you plan it, you set the boundaries in time and distance, you train the walker who’ll go with your wanderer. You explain dementia. You prepare them. 

Add to this, a driving program. Most people with dementia love a drive in the car. It’s the most active passive entertainment for an elder. It should probably end at an ice-cream parlor or a fruit stand or somewhere else involving food.

 

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