As a caretaker or family member, you may notice that sometimes a loved one with dementia can display signs of pacing. He or she may become restless, causing a need to move around. They might wander back and forth – sometimes to the point of exhaustion. Individuals who walkabout, may also feel agitated and take on repetitive moments.
When an individual with dementia starts to behave differently, this can often mistakenly be seen as a result of Dementia. It’s important to see beyond the behavior itself and think about what may be causing it. Looking at the underlying factors might help you identify the needs of your loved one and reduce these behaviors. Try to evaluate whether the pacing is problematic, or if you as a carepartner can alter your response to their behavior.
Rather than dismissing it, it is important to think about how to preserve their independence, dignity and safety.
So what causes pacing in Dementia?
- Restlessness (as a symptom of dementia or a side effect of medication)
- Relieving pain and discomfort
- Lack of physical activity
- Feeling lost (searching for something familiar)
- Responding to anxiety and stress
- Need for the bathroom, hunger or thirst
- Disorientation or confusion
Here’s how you can respond to pacing behavior:
- Your loved one might wander or pace in response to basic needs like human contact, hunger, or thirst. Ensure that their basic needs are met, and that he or she is not in pain.
- If night time walking or pacing is a particular issue, your loved one may have sleeping difficulties. Monitoring caffeine and alcohol consumption in the evenings, as well as avoiding daytime napping can reduce restlessness and pacing.
- Constant pacing may also reveal that your loved one is not getting enough physical activity. Encouraging them to incorporate more exercise in their daily routine can reduce the spare energy exerted during restlessness.
- New surroundings can trigger feelings of confusion and uncertainty. If you find that your loved one’s behavior has worsened due to a new location or surrounding, showing them familiar items can assure them that they belong. Your loved one may also need extra help finding their way about. It may be helpful to provide signs to familiarize them with their surroundings.
- Offering meaningful activities that engage your loved one can relieve boredom and diminish pacing. Being occupied can provide them with a sense of purpose, keeping them mentally engaged and physically active.
- If your loved one appears to be constantly distressed or the pacing worsens, call a physician to ask about possible medications that can help.
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