773 E. Haverford Road • Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
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Why Do Dementia Symptoms Worsen in Winter?

Long cold winters can be a challenge for any of us. However, the winter months can be especially hard for loved ones living with dementia.

Dementia care experts advise that winter can actually worsen an individual's dementia and make managing dementia symptoms more difficult.

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “The cold days and fewer hours of sunlight in winter can combine to exacerbate some of the common symptoms of dementia. As a result, you might find that your loved one with dementia becomes more distressed, agitated or depressed this winter.

In addition to making dementia symptoms worse, winter’s frigid temperatures and hazardous conditions also increase the importance of keeping your loved one safe. The multiple wintertime challenges for loved ones with dementia make it particularly important for dementia caregivers to have a support system in place.”

5 Ways That Winter Can Affect Loved Ones with Dementia

  1. Winter can lead to seasonal depression in those with dementia – When the person’s brain doesn’t receive enough daylight, it can lead to a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sometimes SAD and sundowning can both occur during winter, making life increasingly hard for everyone.
     
  2. Winter can make dementia sundowning symptoms worse – Winter’s shorter days can exacerbate dementia’s sundowning symptoms, which typically occur as the sun sets and night begins to fall. Because of the prolonged periods of darkness in winter, caregivers often find that their loved ones with dementia experience increased agitation and anger and are more difficult to care for.
     
  3. Winter can disrupt the sleep patterns of individuals with dementia – Loved ones living with dementia frequently have more sleep problems in winter. Dementia affects the part of the brain that controls the internal body clock (circadian rhythm), which causes a disturbance in the normal sleep-wake cycle. The earlier darkness in winter can cause further confusion and more sleep problems. For example, a person with dementia might want to go to bed at 5:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 p.m. and then awaken in the middle of the night.
     
  4. Winter can cause visual problems for loved ones with dementia – In addition to seasonal depression, more pronounced sundowning behaviors and sleep disruption, the longer hours of darkness in winter can also cause vision problems and spatial disorientation. Such visual challenges can create a great deal of frustration for the person with dementia and often lead to increased anxiety, agitation and anger.
     
  5. Winter weather is hazardous to loved ones with dementia – According to dementia care experts at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, winter's frigid temperatures can be extremely dangerous to individuals with dementia. The article "Cold Weather Is Treacherous When You Have Alzheimer's: 5 Ways to Keep Loved Ones Safe" offers useful tips for protecting your loved one this winter.

Crystal adds, “It is important for caregivers to understand how winter weather can affect their loved ones’ dementia symptoms. Hopefully, this information will help you to respond to unexpected changes in your loved one’s behavior this winter. And, of course, if you have any concerns about your loved one’s health or behaviors, be sure to speak with your health care provider.”

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, "Why Do Dementia Symptoms Worsen in the Winter?", we'd love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be "Family" Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn't only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

 If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that's needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It's often difficult to be available to care for your loved one's health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5404 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.