Alzheimer's and Walking Patterns
Alzheimer's patients walk for different reasons - anxiety, boredom, discomfort or disorientation. Suggestions for resolving these different problems.
If the person with Alzheimer's Disease has enjoyed walking in the past, they will naturally want to continue doing this. Try to make this possible for as long as you can. If you are unable to accompany the person yourself, you may be able to enlist the help of relatives or friends.
Alzheimer's Patients and Boredom
People often walk about if they are bored. Many people with dementia simply do not have enough to do. Being occupied brings with it a sense of purpose and self-worth for everyone, and people with dementia are no exception. Try to find ways to keep the person mentally engaged and physically active, whether through playing games or involving them in your daily chores and tasks.
Constant walking may also indicate that the person with dementia has energy to spare and feels the need for more regular exercise. There are many simple ways to incorporate more exercise into your normal life without making big lifestyle changes. Try walking to the shops rather than driving, walking up steps rather than using the escalator, or even doing some gardening or vigorous housework. Try to leave the house to get some fresh air at least once a day if you can.
Pain and discomfort
People often walk when they are in pain, in an attempt to ease their discomfort. In the case of arthritic or rheumatic pain, walking can actually help. Alternatively, people may be trying to 'escape' from the pain. If you think this might be the case, ask your GP to examine the person. The need to walk can also be a side-effect of certain medication. Again, ask your GP to check their prescription to see if this could be causing the person to feel restless.
Response to anxiety
Some people walk about if they are very agitated or anxious. They may also be responding to hallucinations, which are a common symptom of some types of dementia. Try to encourage the person to tell you about their anxieties and reassure them in whatever way you can.
Searching for the past
As their dementia progresses, the person may set out to search for someone or something related to their past. Encourage them to talk about this, and show them that you take their feelings seriously.
A task to perform
The person with dementia may walk because they feel they need to carry out a certain activity. It may be a task that they have carried out in the past - for example, they may think they have to collect their children from school, or that they have to go to work. This may be a sign that they are feeling unfulfilled. Try to help them find an activity that gives them a sense of purpose, such as helping out around the home.
Confusion about time
People with dementia often become confused about the time. They may wake in the middle of the night and get dressed, ready for the next day. This confusion is easy to understand, especially in the winter when we often go to bed in the dark and get up in the dark.
Try to provide more daytime activities that help the person use up their energy, or perhaps persuade the person to go to bed earlier. It can help to buy a clock that shows am and pm, and keep it by their bedside. Some clocks also show the day of the week and the date. However, if the person's body clock is seriously out of step, you may need to seek professional help.
- Alzheimer's Society - UK - Carers' advice sheet 501, Nov. 2005.
Staff, H. (2008, December 13). Alzheimer's and Walking Patterns, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/maintaining-quality-of-life/alzheimers-walking-patterns