Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia
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There are roughly 676,000 people in the UK with dementia. In its early stages, dementia can cause people to suffer memory problems – such as losing their keys. But as it progresses, the memory problems can become more frequent, and dangerous.
People with dementia can start to forget familiar things, including places. This can cause people to wander around and get lost.
Six in 10 people wander around “at least once” and many people may do it “repeatedly”, explains the Alzheimer’s Association.
The charity states: “Although common, wandering can be dangerous — even life-threatening — and the stress of this risk weighs heavily on caregivers and family.”
People with dementia are more likely to get lost in places with dense, complex, and disordered roads, research has suggested.
A study by The University of East Anglia (UEA) Norwich Medical School looked at three years of police data – containing 210 police records – about missing persons with dementia.
Ph.D. student Vaisakh Puthusseryppady of UEA Norwich Medical School said: “We found that the higher the density of road intersections, the more complicated the road intersections are, and the less ordered or less grid-like the overall road network layout, the greater the risk for people with dementia to get lost.
“We think this is because each road intersection represents a point at which a person needs to make a critical navigation decision.
“The more intersections there are, the more complex these intersections are, and the more disorganised the overall road network is – the bigger the problem for people with dementia.”
For carers, it’s important to know when someone is at risk of wandering. By knowing the signs that someone might wander, you may be able to help reduce the risk of danger to them.
The Alzheimer’s society has shared some key signs that show people may be “at risk for wandering”.
Someone who finishes regular walks or drives later than usual is likely to wander at some point.
Another sign is having trouble locating “familiar places” including bedrooms, the bathroom, or the dining room.
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Other signs include:
- Trying or wanting to “go home” even when at home.
- Becoming restless, pacing or making repetitive movements.
- Becoming nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as markets or restaurants.
- Acting as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done.
- Talking about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work
What are other symptoms of dementia?
Getting lost is a noticeable symptom of dementia. But other early signs may show up as less significant memory issues, or other subtle behaviour changes.
People with dementia may have issues judging distances, which can lead to problems walking up stairs.
They may also struggle with unsettling emotions such as anxiety, and sadness. People with dementia are also at higher risk of depression.
The Alzheimer’s Society adds that “a person may struggle to find the right word in a conversation, or they might not follow what is being said”.
It’s worth remembering that stress, poor sleep, and medications can also cause memory problems.
But if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, there’s no harm in speaking with a healthcare professional.
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