For loved ones living with dementia, the winter months can often create new challenges to their health and safety. From colder temperatures to extreme weather, caregivers need to pay special attention to seasonal issues that may threaten their loved one’s well-being.
Rob Low, Community Relations Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care community in Pensacola, Florida, shares advice for families traveling during the winter and those living in the northern parts of the country. “Environmental changes that occur during the winter tend to exaggerate many of the symptoms already present with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” says Low. “Behavior problems that occur at night or the dangers of wandering are more severe as the days grow colder and darker. Loved ones with dementia also spend more time indoors, which can decrease their physical activities and affect energy levels and appetite.
“If you’re caring for a loved one in a colder region, be aware of the multiple effects weather and temperature can have on your loved one’s health, behavior and routines.”
Wintery Risks for Loved Ones with Dementia
Whether you live in a region where hard winters are the norm or may be traveling to visit family during these months, it’s wise to consider how the weather might affect your loved one’s dementia symptoms and prepare accordingly. The following list of winter-weather risks should help you as you provide daily care throughout the season:
- Loved ones with dementia may not dress appropriately for cold weather.
- Physical health may decrease due to inactivity or frequent illness.
- Dangers of wandering increase if a loved one leaves home or gets lost outdoors.
- Extra heaters may pose fire hazards if misused.
Snow & Ice
- Loved ones risk slipping and falling when walking outside.
- If a loved one still drives, their risk of an accident increases on icy roads.
- Dementia causes vision issues and a decrease in depth perception, which can make it difficult for loved ones to see icy surfaces or snow banks.
- Extreme weather may leave a loved one shut in, unable to get out of the house to retrieve groceries or medications.
- Home emergencies, such as frozen pipes or loss of heat, create dangerous situations for older loved ones.
- Fewer daylight hours may disrupt loved ones’ sleeping patterns.
- When it gets darker earlier, loved ones may suffer more from sundowning symptoms (increased dementia-related anxiety, confusion or irritation during evening hours).
Dementia Care Tips for Winter Safety
To keep your loved one healthy and safe throughout the winter, the Alzheimer’s Association®’s Colorado Chapter suggests some helpful tips for caring for loved ones with dementia through the cold weather. Highlights include:
- Help your loved one dress for the weather. Put away summer clothes so they only have appropriate choices when dressing. When going outside, help them dress in lightweight layers for easier movement, yet added warmth. Don’t forget a hat, gloves and scarf.
- If your loved one’s feet are cold, socks and slippers might cause them to trip. Buy them socks and slippers with non-slip padding or rubber soles.
- If you ever leave your loved one alone, turn off any space heaters, as your loved one may not be able to monitor its heat or may place objects on top or close by.
- Find ways to keep your loved one active. Take them to a local senior center, senior fitness class or help them exercise at home.
Snow & Ice
- Have your loved one wear non-skid boots outside. Purchase dementia-friendly footwear with Velcro so that your loved one can put boots on by themselves.
- Always clear away snow from your loved one’s sidewalk and walkways around their house.
- Insist that your loved one uses handrails when walking on outdoor steps or ramps.
- Park the car undercover as much as possible.
- Have an emergency plan in place in case the power goes out or your loved one gets snowed in. Make sure plenty of bottled water and food are on hand during extreme weather forecasts.
- Run errands or schedule appointments early in the day, so your loved one can get extra sunlight and function more independently when out and about.
- Consider management strategies for those who suffer from sundowning.
In addition to these tips, consider enrolling your loved one in a program such as MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. This emergency response service assists caregivers and families in case their loved one with dementia wanders away from home. Especially in the cold or dark, the dangers of wandering can be significant for someone with memory loss.
A Team You Can Turn To
“At Clarity Pointe Pensacola, we take pride in assisting family members who are caring for a loved one with dementia at home,” says Low. “Our highly trained team is always on hand to help caregivers answer questions or address concerns about their loved one’s care. In our community, resident safety is one of the top priorities in our secure building and grounds. Even though we rarely experience extreme winters in Pensacola, we are experts in keeping those with dementia safe from the elements.
“If you would like to know more about keeping your loved one safe and healthy during the winter or any time of the year, reach out to us for helpful advice and guidance.”
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.