There are many ways to help your loved one who is living with dementia. Here are some tips on caring for them during the colder months.
The winter months can be particularly challenging for people living with dementia, especially when it comes to temperature control. The cold weather and cooler temperatures can bring new challenges, and can sometimes make symptoms temporarily worse. People living with dementia aren’t always able to communicate the fact they’re cold – or they may not even recognise it themselves.
Here are 7 ways to help support someone living with dementia in cold weathers.
Make sure the person is dressed appropriately
People with dementia won’t always remember to dress appropriately for colder weather, so it’s important to help make sure they’re wearing the right clothes. Layers are key to keeping warm and maintaining body heat, so make sure glasses are fog free and scarves are comfortably loose enough for them to breathe. Materials such as cotton, wool or fleecy fibres hold body heat better than synthetic ones.
If you’re going outside, remember that a lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, so make sure the person has a hat or scarf on. Gloves are also important for keeping hands warm. If it’s icy or snowy, make sure they have appropriate footwear.
Keep the room warm
Try to make sure any rooms that are occupied during the day are kept warm – it’s a good idea to aim for between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.
Turning the heating on a little earlier, using draught-proofing, thermal curtains and roof insulation can help maintain a consistent temperature. It’s also worth keeping within easy reach of a person with dementia, so they can grab it if they’re feeling chilly. At night, a hot water bottle or electric blanket can help keep the bed warm.
Remember, the government offers a Winter Fuel Payment for people born on or before 5 November 1953, offering between £100 and £300 to help with heating bills.
Encourage regular movement
Keeping active can help to boost circulation and help keep someone with dementia warm. It’s a good idea to encourage the person to move around at least once an hour.
If walking is difficult or extreme weather conditions make it hard to go outside, simply getting the person with dementia to move their arms and legs, or wiggling their toes can be helpful.
Here are a few more ideas for exercises on physical activity.
Make the most of natural daylight
Decreased sunlight can cause someone with dementia to feel increase anxiety, confusion, and even depression during the winter.
You can help by making sure they’re exposed to natural daylight when possible. Get outside as much as possible – a quick walk around the block or even just sitting outside in the garden for a few minutes can do wonders.
At home, make sure the curtains are open during the day to let in as much light as possible. You could also position the furniture so that the person with dementia is sitting near a window. As natural light starts to fade, make sure lights and lamps are turned on. Try to avoid excessive artificial lighting at night since this can cause sleep disruption in those with dementia.
Stick to a routine
A big change in routine can cause someone with dementia to become confused or agitated. If you do have to make changes to someone’s routine in winter – for example, changing daily walks due to limited daylight – try to do them slowly and gradually.
Be careful in icy or snowy weather
It can be hard for people with dementia to see icy patches on a pavement or understand that snow can make a surface extra slippery. Help them stay safe by reminding them to take care when stepping out unless you know for sure it’s safe.
If you’re out for a walk in icy or snowy conditions, make sure you’re supporting the person with dementia carefully. Encourage them to take smaller steps and walk more slowly than usual.
Eat and drink regularly
It’s important to make sure someone with dementia is eating regular meals and drinking enough fluid during the winter. Keeping warm uses up a lot of energy, and a warm house can increase the risk of dehydration.
Snacking throughout the day can help keep energy levels up, and warm drinks can help keep them at a comfortable temperature. They should avoid drinking alcohol as it makes you feel warm, but actually draws important heat away from vital organs.
If you need any help or supporting looking after someone who lives with dementia, please don’t hesitate to contact us or the Alzheimer’s Society and we will do our very best to get you and your loved one the help you both rightly deserve.