How can a person with dementia stay warm and safe outdoors?
I love going outside in the winter. I’ll take the soft embrace of a January snowfall over frigid March rains anytime. All of us need to take precautions to stay safe during winter. But for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the season presents even more challenges.
In the winter, getting outside and active can be fun for everyone. But going outdoors with someone with dementia requires great care. He won’t always dress appropriately for colder weather and slippery conditions. Perception problems will make it difficult for him to see ice on the sidewalk or he may believe snow to be a solid surface. To manage outdoor risks:
- Cover all exposed skin. Hats and scarves are particularly important
- Dress in bright colours and add reflective material to clothing
- Encourage her to take smaller steps and slow down
- Make sure she wears non-skid boots.
- Buy boots that use Velcro instead of laces to make it easier for her to dress herself.
What about staying warm in the house?
It is important to keep the house at a good temperature during the winter as a person with dementia may not know if he is warm or cold. Health problems such as diabetes, thyroid problems, and arthritis, or certain medications may make it more difficult to stay warm. To help him keep warm:
- A temperature of 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius is a good minimum.
- Encourage him to wear long johns under his pajamas with socks and slippers around the house.
- If paying for heating is a problem, the government has several programs to assist people in heating their homes.
What other issues arise during winter months?
People with dementia will feel increased anxiety, confusion, and even sleepiness due to the decreased sunlight in the winter months. To manage these issues:
- Make sure she gets some physical activity each day
- Install special bulbs that simulate sunlight
- Open curtains during daylight hours
What about wandering?
The risks when people with dementia go missing are particularly high in the cold winter months. It can also happen without warning. He can get confused and disoriented even close to home. Contact your local Alzheimer Society for specific programs to help keep him safe.