As fall gets grayer and leads into winter, it is more important than ever that Alzheimer’s caretakers understand care tips for these individuals during the cold weather months.
While most people face certain weather-related challenges during the winter when going about their everyday lives, for those with Alzheimer’s disease, the complications can be even more severe. Here are some tips on how Alzheimer’s patients can handle the snow, ice and freezing cold temperatures that come during the winter months.
When the cold weather months hit, there is an increased concern for issues with hypothermia, especially among the elderly and those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Hypothermia is a low body temperature that can cause serious repercussions such as memory loss, exhaustion, slurred speech and more.
Caretakers who want to prevent issues with hypothermia in the cold weather months will want to make sure that the individual with dementia is dressed properly with extra layers. Many times Alzheimer’s patients struggle with an awareness of temperature and weather, and may not know how to properly dress themselves for these conditions.
Caretakers will also want to be aware of the temperature inside the home and make sure that they control proper thermostat settings during the winter.
Hypothermia is a low body temperature that can cause serious repercussions.
During the cold winter months, ice often becomes an issue. It is extremely important for caretakers to be aware of ice, snow and wet ground to prevent falls with Alzheimer’s patients. Those with dementia may not be cognitively aware enough to realize there is ice on the ground, or they may not know how to properly walk on the ice to prevent falling.
Caretakers will also want to keep a careful eye on wandering, an issue that is very common with those with Alzheimer’s. If dementia patients tend to wander they may accidentally slip and fall and sustain serious injuries.
Other Issues to Look Out For
Many times Alzheimer’s patients who are living in memory-care or assisted-living facilities will try to use a space heater in order to effectively heat their individual rooms. These electric space heaters can be a great alternative to staying warm, but they also can pose a fire hazard.
Electric blankets can also cause issues, and become too hot and potentially cause burns on the skin.
Finally, keep in mind that staying indoors and the decreased sunlight during the winter months can cause restlessness and sleeping problems or even increased issues with sundowning.
Eric J. Hall is President & CEO of HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, Chairman of Alzheimer’s Global Initiative, and writes for Huffington Post. Follow Eric J. Hall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ericjhall2