Prof Elizabeth Beattie

In the July edition of Dementia Research News, Prof Elizabeth Beattie, Director of the DCRC – Carers and Consumers based out of Queensland University of Technology, provided an overview of wandering behaviours in dementia. Following on from this overview, in this edition we present research from the collaborative work of Professor Beattie with Professor Donna Algase, Dr Cathy Antonakos, Dr Cynthia Beel-Bates and others at the University of Michigan.

There are many different definitions as to what constitutes wandering. However, very few come from empirical research literature. Consequently, this team set about researching an effective way to define wandering in the context of the Need-driven Dementia-compromised Behaviour (NDM) model. This model suggests that many behaviours exhibited in dementia result from the unmet needs or goals of the person with dementia.

The team collected data on a number of factors that may contribute to wandering and observed how much their 142 participants wandered in a day. The data suggested that these participants could be grouped into four categories which were subsequently labelled 1) classic wanderers, 2) moderate wanderers, 3) subclinical wanderers and 4) non-wanderers.

Classic wanderers exhibited the most wandering behaviours of any of the groups. Classic wanderers tended to walk earlier in the day, around 3:00 p.m., compared to other wanderers. They also tended to have the most severe cognitive impairment, greatest independence in mobility and poorest general health.

Moderate wanderers tended to walk in around half of the researchers' observation sessions. Moderate wanderers had less cognitive impairment than classic wanderers, poorer independence in mobility compared to classic wanderers but the best general health of the three wandering categories.

Subclinical wanderers tended to walk for short amounts of time sporadically throughout the day. Consequently, they were incorrectly identified as non-wanderers by around 50% of staff, more than other categories. Subclinical wanderers tended to have the least cognitive impairment of the three wandering conditions, had similar independence in mobility to moderate wanderers, and their overall health fell in between moderate and classical wanderers.

The implications of this research are that these findings may point to factors contributing to wandering which may be considered in the context of interventions to reduce wandering in people with dementia.

The full research article can be found via the link below:

Empirical derivation and validation of a wandering typology

Watch for Wandering Part 3 in the February 2013 Dementia Research News, which will feature a framework for managing wandering and preventing development.