Did you know that dementia symptoms can temporarily worsen during the winter months? Keep reading to see how you can best keep your loved one safe and comfortable all winter long.
Understanding the Effects of Cold Weather on Dementia Patients
Sundowning occurs when dementia or Alzheimer’s patients become more confused and agitated after the sun sets. With fewer sunlight hours during the winter, sundowning is more prevalent.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s don’t mix well with cold weather. A condition called winter blues describes the increased feeling of anxiety and depression in dementia patients during the winter months. A large percentage of people with dementia already suffer from depression due to cognitive decline. Spending more time inside due to cold, gloomy weather only exacerbates it.
When it gets darker outside sooner than normal, it disrupts a dementia patient’s sleep schedule. If they go to bed when the sun goes down, they may wake up in the middle of the night. This throws off their routine, which can increase confusion and agitation.
Once it gets dark outside, it gets darker inside. Decreased daylight hours can cause dementia patients to have trouble seeing clearly and experience disorientation.
7 Ways to Help Your Loved One With Dementia During Winter
Here are some practical ways you can help your loved one with dementia during the winter months.
- Keep their room warm: When the temperature drops outside, it’s time to bump up the thermostat temperature inside. You can turn on the heater, light a fire in the fireplace, or invest in a space heater. You can also set out cozy blankets for additional warmth.
- Eat and drink regularly: Eating regular meals with snacks in between increases energy in people with dementia. Also, ensure your loved one drinks plenty of fluids, as increased dry air and heat production can cause dehydration.
- Ensure they dress appropriately: Keep your loved one with dementia bundled up in warm layers, especially if they plan to venture outside. Clothing items like long pants, sweaters, jackets, thick socks, and hats help retain body heat. In the case of ice or snow, be sure your loved one has appropriate shoes to wear.
- Soak up the sunshine: The more time your loved one with dementia can spend in the sun during winter months, the better their mood will be. It’s also a good way to get in some exercise, even if only for ten minutes a day.
- Engage in mild exercise: Mild exercise—like short walks and stretching—helps increase blood circulation to keep the body warm. If it’s too cold to exercise outside, opt for taking a few laps around the house.
- Follow a routine: Familiarity is key to helping minimize confusion and agitation in dementia patients. As best you can, help your loved one with dementia stick to a daily routine during the winter months.
- Avoid ice and other hazards: Avoid going outside in particularly cold, icy, or snowy conditions. Slick surfaces make your loved one more prone to suffering an injury, like a fall.
Oakbrook Terrace’s #1 Memory Care Community
If caring for your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s has become too much to handle on your own, Terra Vista is here to help. From facilitating prescription medication management to life enrichment activities, our award-winning staff and dementia care facility is equipped to meet all your loved one’s memory care needs. Contact a team member today to get started.