These pages explain why a person with dementia may walk about. They also suggest ways to help them walk safely, and how to manage the risks.
What is walking about?
There are times when most people want to walk about. People with dementia are no different. Walking is not a problem in itself – it can help to relieve stress and boredom and is good exercise. But as with all behaviour, if a person with dementia is walking about – and possibly leaving their home – it could be a sign that they have an unmet need. By understanding what they need and looking for solutions, you can help to improve their wellbeing.
It can be worrying if you are supporting a person with dementia who often walks about. They may walk repeatedly around the house or leave the house at any time of day or night. People with dementia often have problems with orientation and memory, which may make it hard for them to find their way home. This can cause you to worry about their safety.
You might not understand why the person you are caring for is walking about. This is why it is often referred to as ‘wandering’. This term is unhelpful because it suggests that the person is walking without purpose, whereas they will often have a reason for it.
Rather than dismissing the person’s behaviour, it’s important to think about why they might be walking about and how you can help them maintain their independence, safety and dignity.
Understanding why someone is walking about
A person with dementia might walk about for a number of reasons. The reasons may not be obvious – when you ask them, the person may not remember or be able to tell you. However if you try to understand why the person is walking about and what they need, this can help you find ways to meet their needs.
Try keeping a journal for a couple of weeks, including notes about the person’s behaviour and any reasons they give for why they are walking about. This might help you to identify why they are walking about.