Problems with Alzheimer’s: Wandering (Sundowning)

· adult children, alzheimer's, burn-out, stress

Below is  the introduction to my free eBook on the subject of wandering.  I want to warn you its going to be a couple of days before it is available, but you will be able to sign up for my FREE newsletter and when it is ready, it will be emailed to each and everyone of you.  (What you will get immediately is a stress management recording, but the ebook needs about 48 hours before I can put it up). Sorry for the inconvenience.

My name is Donahue Vanderhider. I am a Gerontologist, trained and educated at the University of Southern California, and my focus for the past 20 years has been Alzheimer’s Disease.  However in the past decade my attention and effort has narrowed even further to helping caregivers, particularly family caregivers. When I started doing this, caregivers were a forgotten side note on the growing Alzheimer’s problem. Back then all attention focused on the person with Alzheimer’s and research and funding was directed at slowing or curing the disease. Very little was being done to ‘manage’ the progression of the disease. And even less attention was given to helping caregiver. But I had a unique perspective. I was sitting behind my desk managing large scale assisted living communities. And noticed that family after family would come to me at the end of their rope. They tended to be an individuals, like a daughter or spouse, verging on burn-out, often with their own medical problems, desperate to find help with their caregiving issues. A description of the typical scenarios would take several pages, but I am not going to bore you with that. If you are reading this you have a similar story to share. You know what I mean.

My heart went out to them, it still does. The poor soul who had developed Alzheimer’s was well cared for, and as their memory slipped away, so did any self-consciousness about their condition.  Effectively, they were ok.  But the caregiver was another story. They often carried this burden without help from other siblings, they were going through life savings like water, and they were exhausted.  Then one day I read an interesting statistic in some recent literature that said: “half of all caregivers will pass away, before the person they taking care of”.  Thinking it was a mistake, I started digging. I soon found out that Stress was the culprit.  Research on stress had repeatedly shown that people under long-term stress were at much higher risk to deadly illnesses: they were 4 times more likely to have a stroke, they were at an even greater risk for a heart attack, and due to a suppressed immune system, they were at significant risk for diabetes, lupus, pneumonia, flu’s and colds, and many other major health problems, research was even starting to draw a correlation between long-term stress and cancer.

It was a short leap in logic to see that of the three major killers of adults in the United States, burnt-out caregivers were at abnormally high risk for all of them. No wonder studies had found that half of all caregivers passed away before their loved ones!  But that conclusion also gave me a direction to work, to change this fact for as many caregivers as I could.

Today I am very successful at eliminating stress for caregivers. I have a very simple two-pronged approach. One, I use my post-graduate training in hypnosis, Neuro-linguistic programming, and guided imagery to dissolve stress at a subconscious level. In fact, I had such great success that the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center at U.S.C., with funds from the Los Angeles County Area on Aging, gave me a Grant to write and produce a stress management CD using Guided Imagery, and distributed it to caregivers all over the County.  Afterwards, I made a retail version that is being sold all over the internet. You can find it at for under $30. But I am giving copies of that same CD to people that join my 10 month Caregiver Relief program at (sorry this site is not quite ready, I will contact everyone that is signed up for my free newsletter at when it is), where I combine the CD with the second prong of my stress management program.

The second prong is quite simply: Information! Almost every caregiver I meet in the course of my job seems to be looking for roughly the same information.  I know from my own experience if I am in a tough situation, it is very stress provoking if I don’t know quite how to solve it.  And it gets further complicated by “partial” information. If I find one solution, but am new to this problem, how do I know that this first solution is the best, or the cheapest, or what other ways can I handle the same problem?  So for caregivers I pour every little detail of information I have accumulated in the past 20 years into my newsletters, into my coaching programs, and especially when I am hired to do a geriatric care assessment: I not only tell families what their options are, but I give the pros and cons, I tell them how to avoid the scammers, I tell them where they can find their particular solution, and usually how to save a lot of money doing it.

The eBook that you are reading right now, is part of a series of articles addressing difficult behaviors in Alzheimer’s care.  Most of them have been posted already on my blogs: and They include: problems with bathing, problems with dressing, problems with incontinence, but wandering is by far the riskiest, and therefore requires more attention to detail in solving it.

I am, as a matter of courtesy starting this book out with an overview of Alzheimer’s disease, because there always seems to be a piece of the puzzle that people are missing.  Feel free to skip right over it if you just want to get to the causes and solutions to Wandering.  And please consider signing up for my newsletter at or

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