Walking About with Dementia:
How can we help?
It is common amongst those with Dementia to ‘Walk About’ or ‘Walk with Purpose’ and in some cases this can lead to the individual leaving their home and putting themselves in danger.
An individual with Dementia may Walk About for a number of reasons, including to relieve stress and boredom or even as a result of anxiety. The walking itself is not usually a problem and we are keen advocates of remaining active after a Dementia diagnosis, however, this needs to be managed to ensure that the individual is not putting their health or their safety at risk.
We try not to use the term ‘Wandering’ as this is quite a dismissive term that suggests that the person that in Wandering has no purpose or is wandering aimlessly and this is often not the case with those with Dementia. Although we, as an outsider, may not immediately see the reason for their Walking About, the individual will have a purpose and a reason for their behaviour but may not be able to communicate this, or may have become disorientated whilst walking, due to their Dementia.
Here we look at some steps that you could take if you find a member of the public Walking About that may be in need of some assistance.
One of the key points to overcome, in a public setting, is (unfortunately) stigma. Some people will ignore the individual with Dementia, or be reluctant to assist, due to their preconceived ideas about what the issue may be or because they do not understand the condition. (This is why we need more Dementia Friends!!!)
However, even for those that do not want to get involved, alerting authorities and the police of a vulnerable person is an easy but very helpful step to take.
If you feel that you able to assist a vulnerable person that appears to be Walking About, then the following tips may help:
Approach the person from the front, so that they are aware that you are approaching them and make yourself known to them.
Consider that they may have hearing issues and so, speak to them closely, without invading their personal space (none of us like our personal space being invaded!)
Try and stay calm and show this with your body language.
Speak slowly and take the time to listen to the individual.
Ask questions in a simple manner and only ask one question at a time. Allow time for the individual to respond.
Try and use non-verbal communication and gestures where appropriate, to simplify your questions or sentence.
Provide reassurance and try to keep the individual calm.
Request assistance from the police when safe and able to do so.
Try to stay with the individual for as long as possible and if possible, until the police or professional help arrives.
One thing that I would always advocate is:
Imagine it was your family member or loved one that had walked in to the local high street, how would you want a member of the public to assist them?
Be that person!
Alzheimer’s Society Helpcards
The Alzheimer’s Society provide FREE helpcards for those living with Dementia to carry around with them, so that it is easier for them to get help when out and about in the Community.
The free cards are a great tool and can be ordered here:
Do you have an experience you would like to share?
Or, is there a topic you would like us to write about?
Get in touch – Info@DementiaTLC.co.uk