Wandering and Elopement Increases in Spring

This weekend it is time to set the clocks forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time. After a long, dreary winter, everyone can relate to that feeling that blossoms up inside as the signs of spring start to grow. The snow begins to melt, the chill leaves the air, and color returns to nature. Students find themselves unable to focus on their studies, adults feel an intense desire to leave work early, and older folks in the nursing home develop a strong desire to spend time outside. The good weather of springtime, in conjunction with the time change, can promote wandering and elopement in residents who are at risk for such behavior.

Need to Investigate Spring

Residents with wandering tendencies may be more tenacious in their wandering behavior at the start of spring because they are driven by a need to investigate their surroundings, especially in situations where they can wander outdoors. After a long winter indoors, wanderers want to go out and see nature. They are likely to be distracted by flower blossoms or nests, which can lead them away from secured areas that are safe for wandering. Similarly, animals can trigger the need to investigate in a wanderer. The resident may see a pretty bird and may wander towards it to get a better look. If the bird flies a short distance away, the wanderer may follow it. These individuals should be encouraged to go outside but should be monitored to make sure that the wandering they do is entirely safe.

Drive to Exercise

Some wanderers will feel the need to get out and move around in the warm weather. They will be drawn to the outdoors, wanting to take walks around the facility grounds. They will want to enjoy the sunshine and warmth that spring has to offer. Exercise through walking can actually be quite good for managing wandering behavior. Those residents who are at risk of wandering should be encouraged to take walks outside, but in a group with others who can keep an eye on the wanderer and keep them with the group.

The Time Change Affects Sleep Patterns

Virtually everyone’s sleep schedule is impacted by the time change each spring. For older individuals who wander, the effects can greatly increase their instances of engaging in wandering behavior. A lack of sleep can cause a wanderer to be more distracted than usual, or unable to focus, which usually translates to more wandering behavior. Luckily, if properly managed, this increase in wandering can be constructively used to correct the sleep problems. By engaging in more daytime activity, such as safe, monitored wandering, the wanderer will “tire” him or herself out and will be able to sleep better at night. Nursing staff should be ready to implement such wandering management when they are aware that a resident has trouble dealing with the time change.

If you are worried that your loved one is at risk of wandering unsafely and you are concerned that the nursing home is not doing enough to protect your loved one from harm, please contact the Rooth Law Firm today by phone at (847) 869-9100 or online.

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