Alzheimer’s Association Summer Safety Tips:
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
• Limit your loved one’s exposure to the sun. Place lawn chairs in shaded areas. Stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the suns rays are the strongest. Encourage your loved one to wear a hat and sunglasses.
• Remind your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to apply and reapply sunscreen when outside for long periods of time.
• During the summer it is especially important to drink lots of fluids. Keep a cool glass of water within arm’s reach as a reminder. Add a flavor to the water to make is more interesting and tasty. Provide non-alcoholic beer or lemonade for backyard BBQs.
• Decision making may be increasingly difficult so dressing appropriately for hot days can be hard. Put away winter clothes, boots, gloves and hats, and replace them with just one or two choices of shirts, pants or shorts/skirts, a hat with a large brim and a light jacket or sweater.
• Enroll in or if necessary, update information with, the Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return or Comfort Zone to reduce the risk of wandering.
• Loud noises and crowds can increase anxiety. Consider watching fireworks from your home or in the quiet of the car and parades on television; picnic on a weekday or early in the day on a weekend when crowds are lighter.
• Never allow unsupervised access to fire pits, and the hot surfaces of BBQ grills or campfires.
• 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 a “buddy” so you don’t lose track of who was supposed to stay with your loved one, accompany your loved one to the restroom and the concession stand, and stay with them at all times. Watch for signs of discomfort or confusion.
• 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.
• 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. Or look into spin classes at the local recreation center.
• 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. Keep a box full of tools with gloves so your loved one can easily find it and everything is in one place.
• 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 advance for the visit. Try using fun name tags and get everyone involved to reduce embarrassment for the person struggling with names. Have a back-up plan that will allow for a quiet place to rest if things become overwhelming or confusing.
• Many families plan vacations and trips during the summer. New and unfamiliar places can be confusing for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. It may also provide clarity for the family that there is in fact an issue with memory loss and other symptoms of dementia that earlier were undetected. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association upon your return if you are concerned about new behaviors or symptoms you may have noticed once away from home. Consider simplifying travel plans or traveling to a familiar destination. Most airlines offer companion programs for those traveling with special needs. That way you can be assured a loved one has arrived safely or made a connection without any problems. Alert the Medic Alert + Safe Return registration phone line of your travel plans and provide them with contact information for your destination. Change the perimeters set for Comfort Zone to accommodate your travel destination as a way to monitor someone with dementia once you arrive for your vacation.
Important 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/Emergency Line – 1-800-625-3780
• Comfort Zone – 1-877-259-4850