When fall is winding down, make sure you're prepared for winter weather as a dementia caregiver.
There are preparations and actions to take to assist when cold or unwanted weather is in the forecast. You know it, I know it. But that doesn’t mean that someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia realizes it.
There are many ways to prepare for the colder temperatures. Turning up the heat, putting on extra layers of clothing, having additional blankets. These are all actions that may not come to mind as an instinctual way to prepare.
How many times have you heard a story about someone who turned a space heater on, the oven, or stove top in efforts to act as additional heating sources? Those stories don’t always end well.
Our senior population with memory loss may not be as mobile as they need to be. When we add loss of circulation to the ever present coldness felt this time of year it only magnifies the temperature. Don’t assume someone with dementia knows what to do. If residing alone, check in on them, even by phone, frequently.
To assist with lower temperatures, here are a few tips to think about and prepare for:
Clothing: Dress in layers that are easy to put on and take off. Lay out articles, such as sweaters, shawls, and blankets, in easy to see places. This could be the back of a couch, a favorite chair, or near an entrance way.
Winter Items: Hats, scarves, gloves, boots, and a warm winter coat are essential when outings are a must.
Central Heating: Maintain a warm temperature. Keep in mind that our seniors generally can feel the cold more intensely as their circulation diminishes.
Gas: If there is gas heating in the home, be certain to have a carbon monoxide alarm. As always, there should be a good working fire detector.
Electric Heaters: Check these instruments regularly. Keep in mind never to lay items to warm or dry on top of them. Also, heaters can cause tripping and fall hazards for someone unsteady on their feet or with poor eye sight. Add in dementia, and lack of remembering what it is can certainly be the cause of someone getting a burn.
Automatic Timers: This is a great way to help regulate the indoor thermometer allowing heat to come on at set times throughout the day and evening.
Nutrition and Hydration: Warm foods and drinks, such as soups, broths, and tea can help feed and warm up the body while maintaining hydration. Someone who is feeling cold may not want to get up to cook a meal. Throw in the memory loss and you can see how easy it is to not maintain eating and drinking. By the way, dehydration spirals confusion.
Another consideration for winter preparedness is to create a senior storm kit in case there is a power outage or other winter emergency. Your kit should include a basic first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, bottled water, a prefilled pill box, warm winter clothing, and perhaps some nutritious snacks. Include a note that any caregiver present can give them. A short, sweet reassuring message with your name, relationship and contact, as well as listing the 9-1-1 number in the event of an emergency, may be helpful.
It’s winter. Formulate a plan and remain calm. Yes, it's cold outside, but it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable inside! Prepare now. The benefits of being ready will be felt by everyone. Stay safe and warm.