Dementia: How We Work with Wandering Behaviors and Make Safe and Calming Environments

A health care worker and a senior woman sit on a park bench together

Because Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cause people to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces over time, wandering can happen when they become lost or confused about their location. While it can happen at any stage of the condition, 60% of people living with dementia will wander at least once and many will do so repeatedly.

Who’s at Risk for Wandering?

Wandering can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Everyone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is at risk for wandering. Common signs your loved one may wander include:

  • Forgetting how to get to familiar places
  • Talking about fulfilling former obligations, like going to work
  • Trying or wanting to “go home” even when they’re at home
  • Becoming restless, pacing, or making repetitive movements
  • Having difficulty locating familiar places, such as the bathroom, bedroom or dining room
  • Asking the whereabouts of past friends and family
  • Acting as if they’re doing a hobby or chore, but not actually doing anything
  • Appearing lost in a new or changed environment
  • Becoming nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as markets or restaurants

Using Dementia-Friendly Design to Reduce the Risk of Wandering

Research recommends taking a person-centered approach to wandering. This involves getting to know the person with dementia and the events or conditions that trigger wandering or exit-seeking. Then caregivers should work to find creative individual care or environment-based responses that promote a person’s freedom of movement and safety, while reducing unmet needs.

At Friendship Village Tempe we’re more than just a traditional nursing home for dementia patients. We’re a memory care community designed specifically for those with memory loss. We use environmental design and other strategies to give your loved one the freedom they need while ensuring they stay safe. Here’s how:

  • Wandering encouragement — With a majority of memory care residents likely to roam about the property, our memory care neighborhood is designed to let them safely wander. Each area of our neighborhood has a distinct appearance and overall layout for easy navigation. Each resident has a memory box outside their residence to help them readily identify their home. We also offer an indoor walking path.
  • Outdoor access — Our memory care neighborhood offers a secure courtyard featuring a serene garden with a granite water feature and an outdoor walking path.
  • Decrease overstimulation — Reducing things like visible doors that people use frequently, noise and clutter can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Preventing under-stimulation — We offer activities like music, art, physical exercise, pet therapy and gardening to engage your loved one.
  • All-day snacks — Making water and snacks available anytime allows residents to eat whenever they’re hungry and prevents them from seeking out food.
  • Increased autonomy — Providing independence, a sense of control and flexibility can increase happiness and decrease feelings of anxiety and stress. We provide residents with choice, variety and the freedom to do as much or as little as they want.

Innovative Memory Care That Connects with Your Loved One

At Friendship Village Tempe, we offer an innovative program called Heartfelt CONNECTIONS – A Memory Care Program™. It works to preserve everything that brings meaning to your loved one and your family in a comfortable home-like setting. To learn more about how memory care at Friendship Village can support your loved one, contact us here.