Marilee Dorn, retired Willmar Police Officer, and proponent of Project Lifesaver, gave an excellent presentation on Critical Wandering Recovery to WCDAN members following the March 14, 2017, monthly WCDAN meeting.
She addressed what wandering is and why wandering happens in people diagnosed with dementia of Alzheimer’s type. She explained commonalities in wandering incidents, and gave tips for prevention as well as recovery efforts. She stressed that it is imperative to contact law enforcement and/or professional Search and Rescue authorities promptly, especially in Minnesota, as there is a significant increase in morbidity and mortality if the wandering individual is not located within 12 hours.
Marilee put together an informative handout of public-sourced material that we can share, which we will do through our blog posts. Today we will focus on the question: What is wandering?
Wandering is a common behavior in Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do individuals wander, but they easily become lost. To (try to) prevent ourselves from getting lost, most of us use short- and long-term memory to identify landmarks, a sense of time and speed to judge distance, and our visual-spatial sense to know direction angles and travel times between landmarks. These systems can be impaired in people with Alzheimer’s.
Marilee discussed three types of wandering. The first is non-goal wandering which can be passive, random or aimless, as well as anxiety reducing, or following a caregiver. The second is goal-oriented wandering. This can be through escape or exit-seeking, or industrious, such as a memory to go to work or pick up a child from school, or searching for a home, pet, or item no longer there. The third is critical wandering, which was the subject of her talk. This concerns anyone with dementia who wanders from supervised care, leaves a controlled environment, or cannot be found. This type of incident should be classified by Law Enforcement as “missing endangered.”
We’ll do three or four future posts to share more information from Marilee’s talk on wandering. The next one (March 15) will address wandering prevention.