Cold weather concerns for those living with Alzheimers or related dementias


Arden Courts

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Posted on

Dec 12, 2022


Florida - Sarasota, Bradenton & Charlotte Counties , Florida - Southwest

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The cold weather, snow and ice always bring an increased risk of injury and hazards. However, individuals living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia may be more susceptible to risks.

“The number one suggestion I make to families and caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia is to always be prepared,” shares April Suva-Surovi, a senior community relations specialist with Arden Courts ProMedica Memory Care. “Be prepared for anything that can happen, even if you think your loved one would never do it.”

Follow these tips to avoid dangerous situations to help keep your loved ones safe this winter.

Prepare for a winter storm before it hits

Ensure you and your family have enough food and water to last until the storm passes and road conditions improve. Make sure you keep all cell phones and tablets charged in case the power goes out.

Flashlights (not candles), blankets and other warm clothing should also be kept handy in case of power failure.

“Cold weather-related incidents are very common with someone who is having difficulty understanding their environment or reasoning through normal activities of daily living. One wrong misinterpretation on a cold winter night can lead to someone wandering in the cold with disastrous consequences,” shares Ms. Suva-Surovi.

If you don’t live near your loved one, see if someone who lives nearby can check up on them before and after the storm. Inform them of emergency contacts and where important medical information, such as their insurance card, can be found.

Prevent hypothermia

Hypothermia is a concern for everyone in the winter, but persons living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia can be at an even greater risk. Some dementia sufferers may find it difficult to detect temperature and weather changes. To help keep your loved ones safe, make sure you know the signs of hypothermia. Look for shivering, exhaustion, sleepiness, slurred speech, memory loss and clumsy motor skills.

Remove space heaters and electric blankets

Electric space heaters can pose a fire risk, especially when used with extension cords or if they get knocked over. To keep loved ones with Alzheimer’s or related dementia safe, remove all space heaters from their home. Or, purchase space heaters that automatically turn off when they reach a set temperature or tip over.

An electric blanket could burn the skin of those living with dementia without them even realizing the blanket is too hot. While most people can tell when they start to get too warm from an electric blanket, those with Alzheimer’s or related dementia may be less sensitive to changes in temperature. To keep your loved ones safe, it is better to remove all electric blankets from their home.

Check the heating system and install carbon monoxide detectors

The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is increased with the use of the furnace and other heating methods used to keep your house warm. The odorless, tasteless gas can quickly build up to dangerous levels without your knowledge. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a dull headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, weakness, blurred vision, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness.

Keep loved ones safe by having their heating system checked once a year. Also, install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of their home.

Clear ice and snow

There is an increased risk of slips and falls when snow and ice cover the ground. Persons living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia may also have vision issues that can make it harder to see ice or realize that a walkway is slippery. Keep all stairs, walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice by shoveling often and using rock salt. However, make sure to not overuse the salt as this can cause traction issues.

Keep living spaces well-lit

The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder, comes from decreased sunlight and shorter days in the winter months. It can also be confusing for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and related dementia.

Reduced sunlight can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause increased anxiety. You can help your loved ones by installing timers for their lights to turn on before it starts getting dark. Also, open the blinds during the daylight hours and keep all hallways well lit.

Prepare for an emergency

Wandering in the winter can be extremely dangerous for your loved one, as they may become lost and not dressed appropriately for the weather. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s or related dementia does wander off, make sure you have a plan of action.

“Families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia should have an ‘in case of emergency’ kit on hand. The kit should include a picture of your loved one, medical documents, their prescription list, copies of legal documents, copies of insurance cards and IDs, a flashlight and first aid supplies,” Ms. Suva-Surovi suggests.

This information would be helpful to share with police and other authorities who will be helping you search for your loved one. You may also use a permanent marker or sew identification into their clothes with your contact information. You can also look into joining a program that can help you track your loved one with GPS. These often require a monthly subscription fee.

“Being a caregiver to someone with dementia has so many unknowns that can leave you feeling lost and out of control. Having knowledge of the situation and what could come, along with being prepared, can give you back some control,” Ms. Suva-Surovi shares.

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Arden Courts - ProMedica Memory Care Community (Lely Palms)

Memory Care 6125 Rattlesnake Hammock Rd., Naples, Florida, 34113

Arden Courts provides a safe and pleasing home for individuals with memory loss, including enclosed courtyards and a backyard with walking paths. We are a residential living alternative designed for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other types of memory impairments. We offer the services traditionally associated with an assisted living residence, while taking into account the special needs of individuals with memory loss including safety, building layout, activities and dietary needs.