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The occurrence of episodes of getting lost was examined in 104 subjects with dementia who were assessed every 4 months over 5 years. All subjects were initially living at home with a caregiver who could give good information. Forty-three subjects needed to be brought back home at least once. Five subjects repeatedly got lost. Forty-six subjects were kept behind locked doors at some point. Subjects who got lost were more likely to become permanently resident in institutions (odds ratio = 7.3; 95% confidence interval: 3.0 to 17.8). Patients who performed better on a behavioral test of topographical memory were less likely to get lost over the subsequent 5 years (negative predictive value: 90%). The risk of patients with dementia getting lost is substantial and requires frequent intervention by caregivers. This risk is a major reason for institutionalization. A simple test may help in assessing the risk of getting lost in patients with dementia.
Objective: This article analyzes the natural history of wandering behavior throughout the course of dementia. Design: Prospective, 10-year, longitudinal study of wandering behavior in dementia, with autopsy follow-up. Setting: Participants with dementia, living at home with a carer. All lived in Oxfordshire, UK. Participants: Eighty-six people with dementia who were living at home with a carer and who were able to walk unaided at entry to study. Measures: At 4-monthly intervals, the carers were interviewed using the Present Behavioural Examination to assess wandering behavior were distinguished. Results: Changes in wandering behavior were not generally related to gender, age, or time since onset of dementia. Onset of different types of wandering behavior showed some relationship with cognitive state. Various forms of increased walking first appeared during moderate dementia, each type typically persisting for 1 to 2 years. Late dementia was characterized by decreased walking and immobility. Conclusions: Wandering behavior in dementia can cause great problems for carers. There are different causes for such changes, some of which are related to cognitive ability, for example increased confusion results in ineffectual “pottering” and getting lost. Increased walking at night corresponds with disruption of diurnal rhythm.
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