The pleasures of summer include longer, warmer and sunnier days, celebrations with family and friends, and backyard BBQs. For the person caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, summer can also bring with it additional safety challenges. By taking a few minutes to review the following safety tips, families can enjoy a fulfilling and pleasant summertime together.
Sunshine and Warm Weather
- Exposure to the Sun – Limit your loved one’s exposure to the sun. Place comfortable lawn chairs in shaded areas. Encourage her to stay indoors between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the suns rays are the strongest. Encourage your loved one to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect her eyes.
- Sunscreen – Remind your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to apply and reapply sunscreen when outside for long periods of time. Spray-on sunscreens are now available and may make application quicker and easier.
- Hydration – During the summer heat it is especially important to drink lots of fluids. Offer the person with Alzheimer’s disease a small glass of water to drink hourly, or keep a cool glass of water within arm’s reach as a reminder to him to drink. Provide non-alcoholic beer or lemonade for backyard BBQs.
- Appropriate Clothing – As the summer season is getting underway, think about reorganizing your loved one’s closet. Put away winter clothes and replace them with light clothing appropriate for the season.
- Enroll in or if necessary, update information with the Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. Extreme summer temperatures can put your loved one at greater risk should she wander and become lost.
- Noise and crowds of people can cause a person with Alzheimer’s disease to become agitated or wander in search of a quiet place. Fireworks displays, parades and picnics in the park on holidays may overwhelm your loved one. Consider watching fireworks from your home or in the quiet of the car and parades on television; picnic during less crowded hours and days.
- Backyard BBQ’s and fireworks can create a fire and safety hazard for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease who does not remember the proper use for such items. Never allow unsupervised access to open flames and hot surfaces.
- Attending a minor or major league ballgame may be something your loved one has always enjoyed. However, large crowds can be overwhelming for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Identify someone in your group to be the designated “buddy” so you don’t lose track of who was supposed to stay with your loved one. Make sure someone always accompanies your loved one to the restroom and the concession stand and stays with them until they are ready to return to their seat. In large crowds the risk of being separated is great and can happen very quickly.
- Swimming may be a favorite pastime for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. While the physical exercise should be encouraged, do not allow an individual with Alzheimer’s disease to swim unsupervised, and do not leave children in the pool under the supervision of the person with Alzheimer’s disease even for a short period of time.
- Bicycling can be an enjoyable way to exercise in the summer, but traffic and other external stimuli can cause a person with Alzheimer’s disease to become distracted, resulting in an accident. If your loved one still enjoys bicycling, consider accompanying him on the ride or ask a trusted companion to accompany him. Encourage your loved one to wear a helmet and to ride on trails designated for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Gardening can be a pleasurable and relaxing activity but can also pose risks for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Keep an eye on sharp gardening shears or tools and closely monitor their use. Use fertilizers that are not harmful if swallowed accidentally and ensure that the plants in the garden are not poisonous.
- Family reunions can be overwhelming to the person with Alzheimer’s disease and may rely greatly on her ability to recall names and faces. Consider limiting the amount of visitors and prepare both family members and the person with Alzheimer’s disease in advanced for the visit. Have a back up plan that will allow for a quiet place of rest if things become overwhelming or confusing.
- Many families plan vacations and trips during the summer time. Remember that new and unfamiliar places can be confusing for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Consider simplifying travel plans or traveling to a familiar destination. Alert the Medic Alert + Safe Return registration line of your travel plans and provide them with contact information for your destination.
When visiting relatives this summer, remember that Alzheimer’s disease can have a big impact on every member of the family including children. Each child will react differently to someone who has Alzheimer’s.
The young people in your life might have questions about what is happening. It’s important for you to take the time to answer these questions openly and honestly. It will also help to share with them the changes the disease might bring, now and in the future.
Your local Alzheimer’s Association can help you answer questions and provide information about how the family can work through the changes brought on by the disease. Here are some tips for helping children and teens understand Alzheimer’s disease:
- Keep lines of communication open
- Answer questions honestly
- Teach your child about the disease, the symptoms and the stages
- Let your child know these feelings are normal
- Create opportunities for your child to express his or her feelings
- Prepare your child for changes
- Let your child know reactions of the person with the disease are not his or her fault
- Inform your child’s teacher and school counselor
Activities children can share with the person who suffers from dementia:
- Bake cookies
- Put a puzzle together
- Play Hangman
- Color or draw pictures
- Make a scrapbook of family photographs
- Read a favorite book or story
- Eat a picnic lunch outside
- Watch your favorite TV show together
- Listen to or sing old songs
The Alzheimer’s Association can also help. For a youth activity packet, information or resources please call 1.800.272.3900.
Imporatant Contact Information
Alzheimer's Association 24-hour Helpline – 1.800.272.3900
Medic Alert + Safe Return Enrollment Line – 1.888.572.8566
Medic Alert + Safe Return Incident Line – 1.800.625.3780