“All that is gold does not glitter / Not all those who wander are lost / The old that is strong does not wither / Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” — J.R.R.Tolkien
Why do people with Alzheimer’s disease wander?
The tendency to wander in Alzheimer's patients is often attributed to disorientation
. However, because disorientation is a common characteristic that touches every aspect of the disease, this is an insufficient explanation.
One theory is that stress or fear is a wanderer's driving force, but in my caregiving experience, this wasn’t the case.
As my mother’s disease progressed, her desire to get up and walk away increased. She always had a reason for wanting to leave the security of our home. She wasn’t driven by stress or fear; she was purposeful. On her way to a specific place for an explicit purpose, she was determined in her mind about how to get to where she wanted to go.
Inclination to wander
My teenage son was recently reminiscing about his grandmother and related an incident from several years ago.
“I was watching 'Alvin and the Chipmunks
' when Granny said, ‘Tell your mom I’ll be back in a little while. I am going home to West Virginia.’” (Quite a trek, as we live in Florida).
My son’s memory prompted me to take a closer look at the association between wandering and cognitive impairment. Granny didn’t realize that her grandson was too young to be left alone. In her full cognitive capacity, she would not have suggested that he pass on such