Wandering Top Tips: How to Minimize Agitation and Restlessness


The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips for keeping a dementia patient calm and engaged.

Minimizing Agitation and Restlessness

“I experienced wandering with my mother-in-law, who had dementia. As long as she was able and the weather permitted, we would take several walks each day. Some of these were quite long, as I was hoping to tire her out or get the urge to wander out of her system for the day. Despite being tired sometimes and wanting to go back inside, she would often get up to go out again just minutes after we returned home. When it got bad enough, I would sometimes need to remove myself from the situation. I would keep an eye on her while she roamed from door to door until she gave it up for the day. This pacing could last for 3 hours or more. I would try to distract her by taking her out for long car rides when the compulsive walking seemed to be getting the best of both of us.” –Catjohn22

“I find that keeping my mom well fed and active all day with no naps cures the wandering. I also make sure Mom’s daycare keeps her awake and hydrated. It works well, and I can tell when they don’t follow through.” –Anonymous101100

“My mum would wake up at midnight or 2 a.m. and wander. My poor father slept with one eye open, leaving him utterly exhausted. I suggested we take Mum off ALL sugar (in her tea, biscuits, cakes, desserts, etc.). Since we have done this, she has been sleeping right through until five or six in the morning. I highly recommend removing all sugar from your loved one’s diet, as it may keep them from waking up during the night and wandering around.” –problemsolved

“Some of the key to surviving this phase of dementia behavior is just letting it be... (Just like when you make allowances for a toddler.) If your loved one had a hobby that they used to love, you can give them some of the safe tools associated with that hobby that they cannot hurt themselves with and space that is theirs, and let them ‘play’ at doing it. You might be surprised by what they can still do. My aunt was a CPA, and she would count and roll money for hours. She also loved to clip coupons and pictures she liked out of old magazines. We made collages together with glue and construction paper and displayed them on the refrigerator! This helped my sanity tremendously and I think it helped hers too, because she felt like she was doing something useful. It wasn’t always easy, but it was much more calming than constantly following her around. She would get up and wander around a little at times, but a few calls and encouragement always brought her back to the table, because she was interested in these activities. Music playing in the background also helped to keep her focused. Do not underestimate the need for exercise and walking to help your loved one sleep at night, too.” –LyricaLady

“Perhaps there are triggers in your loved one’s environment that you can change. They may be wandering because they are unsettled and perhaps cannot express their concerns. Keep track of when this behavior occurs, and see if you can redirect them with another activity before it happens. If they seem to wander more in the evening hours, this might be attributed to sundowning and activities that they used to be responsible for during that time of day (e.g. getting the kids from school, driving home from work, fixing dinner). If they are unable to do any of these things, they will wander around, much like we do when we are on vacation visiting someone and living in their house with little (if any) responsibilities! While on vacation at my sister’s house, I didn’t have to worry about fixing dinner, buying groceries or cleaning up after meals. After two weeks, I felt restless. Imagine how our loved ones feel! I found that my mother felt better ‘doing’ something when she was her most restless. Even folding laundry and sorting coins seemed to help. Of course, all activities need to be monitored.” –MiaMadre

“Finding out what makes your loved one agitated can help you figure out what you need to change in their environment or routine. Maybe they just need to use the bathroom or they are cold, hot, or hungry.” –Clh1815

“After my husband’s stroke, he wanted to wander. One rehab place tried to keep him inside, and it was a constant struggle. Another let him go outside with a companion, and he did just fine. He would walk around for a short time and then go back inside. Have you asked your loved one what they want to do when they go out? Maybe they’re afraid of being alone or they are looking for you or another family member. Knowing why they want to go walk around/go outside will help you figure out what to do about it. Sometimes redirecting their attention away from the front door can help.” –Appaloosa

Read: Wandering Top Tips: Location Devices and I.D. for Seniors Who Wander

Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

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Ashley is responsible for the planning and creation of AgingCare.com’s award-winning content. As a teenager, she assisted in caring for her step-father during his three-year battle with colon cancer. Now, through her work at AgingCare.com, she strives to inform and empower the caregivers who devote so much to helping and healing the ones they love.

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