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Learning to deal with Wandering Behaviour

Frequent Problems Associated with Wandering Behaviour

Wandering can occur at any time and from a variety of settings including:

  • the residential home
  • daily activity groups
  • residential care institutions
  • shopping centres
  • recreational outings

For the parents of children with an intellectual disability, the dilemma is how to encourage independence, creative exploration and enjoyment of the surroundings, while at the same time preventing the child from wandering off and becoming lost.

It is frequently not possible to determine what triggers the behaviour or when it will occur. 

To the family and carer, wandering behaviour can significantly add to their list of daily responsibilities and stress levels. Many carers find themselves in the difficult position of having to restrict the independence of their loved one in order to reduce the risk of a missing episode.

Options used to Curb Wandering Behaviour

  • provide interesting activities and participation
  • promote physical activities (under supervision) during afternoon periods
  • restrict external access if located in a high risk area
    • constant vigilance
    • locks and other devices to keep person in designated setting
  • utilise Systems/Devices to monitor the movement of the person if a persistent wanderer

Each of these options is associated with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and no one option will be suitable for all individuals. While decisions can be difficult to make, it is important for carers to be proactive, not reactive.

Some Proactive Steps towards Dealing with Wandering Behaviour

  1. Make the decision to plan for future wandering behaviour
  2. >
  3. Anticipate issues or problems when the person at risk may be more agitated than usual
  4. >
  5. Seek out professional advice from support services such as:
    Alzheimer’s Australia State Branches
    Carers Australia State Branches
  6. Decide on a course of action
  7. Take steps implement your preferred course of action

Some Other Issues to Consider

  • the type of disability
  • the degree of disability
  • broader family needs and the types and levels of support that can be provided long term
  • the personality of the ‘at risk’ person