Colder temperatures, snow, ice and early darkness – all can be challenging and stressful for the 76,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer's or dementia, and for the many more who provide care for them.
"When cold weather sets in, it's especially important to be aware of how memory loss can affect people's decision-making,” said Meg Donahue, director of Community Engagement for the Alzheimer's Association of Colorado. “Be aware that a person living with memory loss may not think to put on gloves or a hat, so the care partner will need to keep an eye on this and help the person dress appropriately for the weather.”
Wandering is something else to be aware of, Donahue noted, with the risks magnified in cold weather. Tips for wandering prevention can be found online at www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/wandering
or by calling the Alzheimer’s Association free 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900.
By preparing in advance, caregivers can make a big difference in keeping their loved one safe. The Alzheimer's Association of Colorado offers some safety tips for navigating the winter season as an Alzheimer's or dementia caregiver, such as:
Outside the home
Inside the home – natural light
- Be prepared. Winter storms can be dangerous. Check weather conditions regularly and have emergency plans in place.
- Bundle up. Help the person living with Alzheimer's dress warmly for winter weather conditions by wearing dry, loose-fitting layers and covering exposed skin.
- Prevent slips. Assume all surfaces are slick and take safety measures. Assist the person living with dementia by wearing sturdy shoes and walking slowly when outside.
- Buddy up. Ask family, friends and neighbors for help with shoveling, grocery shopping or other errands. An Alzheimer's Association survey says 84% of caregivers would like more support providing care for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, especially from their family.
- Lack of sunlight in the winter increases confusion, depression and anxiety.
- Promote natural sunlight in the home. Position furniture or a favorite chair near a window, keep curtains and drapes open throughout the day, and ensure that adequate lights and lamps are turned on nearing dusk hours.
- If the home does not have a lot of windows or skylights to let natural light in, you can look into purchasing a light therapy lamp that can help improve sleep, boost moods and increase energy.
- Keep the most occupied room(s) at a comfortable, warm temperature.
- Poor insulation and drafty windows and doors can cause the house to become cold.
- Those living with a diagnosis may not always be able to communicate if they are cold.
- Have an easy to reach blanket or robe available, or fuzzy socks with grippy bottoms.
- Promote movement with your loved one. It will help with circulation.
- If it is too cold, wet or slippery outside for a walk or an outing, turn on some chair exercise videos, get some music playing and encourage marching in place, tapping their toes or kicking a balloon back and forth.
- Having regular scheduled meal times or snacks can help promote movement and eating will increase your loved one’s energy.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.