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As beautiful as winter can be with its snow-covered landscapes and glistening, ice-laden trees, the winter season can be especially challenging for the health and safety of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Winter’s cold temperatures, icy sidewalks and other seasonal hazards mean that at-home caregivers must be especially vigilant in safeguarding their loved ones’ well-being.
Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “Taking care of a loved one with dementia can be challenging any time of year, but the winter season can be particularly difficult. During the late fall and the three months of winter, individuals with dementia are exposed to freezing temperatures, slippery conditions and greater risk of colds and upper respiratory ailments. And wandering can be much more hazardous in wintry conditions.
“Also, falls are a very serious threat in winter. The National Council on Aging tells us that falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death among senior adults age 65 and older, and the Mayo Clinic adds that individuals with dementia are at an unusually high risk of falling.
“Despite these risks, the good news is that there are many useful steps you can take to protect the safety and health of your loved one with dementia this winter.”
You can find several valuable winter safety tips from dementia care experts in the following articles: Caring for Dementia: Winter Safety Tips and Winter Weather Safety Tips For Families Whose Loved Ones Are Dealing With Alzheimer’s. Take these winter safety ideas to heart and put them into practice for your loved one with dementia today.
Key tips for dementia caregivers include:
· Make sure your loved one is dressed appropriately – Loved ones with dementia may find it difficult to discern temperature changes. Not recognizing cold winter temperatures can place them at risk of dangerous hypothermia. Therefore, be sure they are dressed warmly in hats, scarves and gloves when going outdoors. Cover any exposed skin and provide layers of lightweight clothing.
· Safeguard against falls – Purchase proper fitting, non-skid boots to improve your loved one’s balance and reduce their risk of falls on slick winter surfaces. Also, keep sidewalks, steps and driveways dry and clear of snow and ice. You can also add a sharp tip to the end of a cane to provide a better grip.
· Avoid using electric blankets – Because they might not be sensitive to heat and cold, loved ones with dementia can burn their skin, not realizing that the electric blankets are getting too hot. Therefore, it is best to avoid them entirely.
· Be very cautious with the use of space heaters – Space heaters represent a fire risk for your loved one with dementia if they overheat or are knocked over. If you must use space heaters, be sure to choose ones that will automatically turn off if they get too hot or tip over.
· Guard against wintertime wandering – Wandering can be dangerous any time of year, but wandering in the winter can be extremely hazardous if individuals with dementia become lost and are not dressed warmly. Be sure to have an emergency plan of action in place in case your loved one does wander off. Your plan should include identification in your loved one’s clothing with your contact information, a recent photo of them and their medical information to share with police and other authorities. It is also wise to enroll them in the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return® Program and to consider a GPS tracking device for them.
· Make wintertime adjustments for sundowning – The shorter days of winter can aggravate “sundowning” symptoms that are common to individuals with dementia. If your loved one is affected by sundowning around dusk, you can turn the lights on earlier, keep the curtains open during daylight hours and consider using light therapy to help reduce their feelings of anxiety and agitation.
· Simplify short trips in the car with your loved one – If your loved enjoys running errands with you or going shopping, you can apply for a state-issued Handicapped sticker or license plate to park closer to stores. A special license can be a major convenience during the winter months when parking lots can be full and slippery with snow and ice.
Winter weather can make life more of a hassle for all of us, but by applying these tips, you can make your role as a dementia caregiver easier while keeping your loved one safe.
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.
If you have comments or questions about our blog, “Winter Safety Tips for Your Loved One with Dementia,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.
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 socializationand 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 suiteswith large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.
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 needsincrease, 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 484.386.6323 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.