Now that winter has officially arrived, caregivers should take a few minutes to consider how winter weather impacts their dementia patients. Cold temperatures, ice, snow, and early darkness present special challenges for dementia sufferers and caregivers should do what they can to address them. Fortunately the Alzheimer’s Association offers a few helpful winter safety tips you can use.
Start with the Basics
Dementia patients aren’t going to dress appropriately for the cold weather. So it’s the caregiver’s responsibility to ensure they’ll be warm, especially when traveling outside. Cover as much exposed skin as possible using light layers. And because they’ll lose a lot of warmth through their head, don’t forget to provide a warm hat. Mittens are also a good option for dementia patients because they’ll keep their hands warm and are easier to get on and off than traditional gloves.
Slipping and falling on ice and snow is another big winter risk for dementia sufferers. Of course, the best course of action is to avoid ice and snow altogether, but that’s not always possible. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends dressing your senior in skid-proof shoes and using removable “tracks” for added traction. Remember, dementia makes it difficult for your senior to navigate under ideal circumstances, so it’s best to take it slow and use short steps when navigating slippery surfaces. It’s also important to keep the well-traveled exterior spots of your senior’s home completely clear of ice and snow. And whenever possible, use a handrail.
Sundowning Worsens During Winter
Sundowning refers to the increased anxiety and confusion many dementia sufferers experience in late afternoon. Visual perception is often severely damaged by dementia, and the reduced light at dusk only serves to increase confusion. As you might imagine, sundowning behavior often gets much worse during the short winter days. To combat sundowning, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends turning lights on earlier, opening curtains during daylight hours, and adding bulbs that mimic natural sunlight. It can also be helpful to install motion-activated lighting to help your senior move around your home more easily.
Wandering Is a Big Threat
We’ve written before about dementia patients’ tendency to wander and it’s arguably the biggest safety threat they’ll face during winter months. Because – quite frankly – a dementia patient won’t last long exposed to the cold. The best way to prevent wandering is to secure their home using locks, barred windows, fencing, and exterior door alarms. There are also several companies that market GPS devices seniors can wear that can track their movements if they do wander. Caregivers will enjoy improved peace-of-mind by taking just a few of these simple steps.
Home Care Can Help
Dementia patients need round-the-clock care. It’s one the great tragedies of this awful disease. Short of locked-in Alzheimer’s care, full-time in-home caregiving is the only solution to keep dementia patients healthy and safe. If you’re taking care of a dementia patient in the Phoenix area, Generations Home Care can help with that burden. Our caregivers are specially trained to meet dementia sufferers where they are and work to maximize their quality of life. If you’d like more information, give us a call at 602-595-HOME (4663).
Caregiving is already one of the hardest jobs in the world and the winter months can often make it much more difficult. But with a little preparation and care – and a little outside help – you can get through winter safely and cheer when spring finally arrives.