One of the common characteristics of dementia is the compulsion to walk. While once commonly mistermed as ‘wandering’ we now understand that this walking is not as arbitrary as it may have appeared to be; someone with dementia usually does have an objecctive in mind, it just may not be a realistic or rational one as we think of it. We now term this as ‘wandering with purpose’ and though they do have a purpose in mind, it’s not uncommon for them to forget where they thought they were going or not be able to find their way there or back. This can obviously lead to fear and frustration, causing significant distress.
Preventing wandering with purpose is not the answer because the urge to do it can be very strong. Therefore there is a strong case in dementia care to enable people to engage in it in a safe and managed way.
One way that dementia environments can facilitate wandering with purpose is by providing destinations as well as clear visual cues to aid wayfinding to and from that destination. For example, a communal space located at the end of a corridor could be a great solution. This could be styled as a café, shop, pub or even an outdoor area. The route to the destination can use the walls and floors to indicate the direction of travel, either literally with arrows and signage, or using visual cues such as graphics that look like outdoor streets or incremental numbers of trees and plants as you get closer to the ‘park’, for example.
This can be achieved using large format wall murals, dementia signage and other visual cues such as memory boxes containing relevant objects. Wall murals can also help create a realistic feel for whatever environment you’re aspiring to create for the destination space, along with tactile furniture and props. A vintage look can also help with reminiscence therapy.
Initiatives to facilitate wandering with purpose such as this can allow people to act on their compulsions to move around in a way that is safe and controlled and also helps them feel independent.
If you would like more information on creating destinations and wayfinding strategies in your dementia environment, call us on 01274 728831 or send us a message.