During the winter months, snow, extreme temperatures and the lack of sunlight present challenges for those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. This time of year can also be difficult for the 255,000 Minnesotans caring for someone with dementia, however, the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter offers these tips to help navigate the season:
• Be prepared
• Bundle up
• Avoid slips and falls
• Make daylight last
• Ask for help
“Planning and preparation are key to keeping a person with dementia safe during our long winter days,” says Heidi Haley-Franklin, Vice President of Programs, Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota. “Check the weather regularly before leaving the house and prepare as much as possible. It’s also important to remember that people with Alzheimer’s may not always dress appropriately for the frigid conditions. Make sure they wear clothing that covers as much exposed skin as possible. Several layers of lightweight clothing for easy movement tend to work well. Winter hats are important to prevent body heat from escaping, and mittens keep hands warmer than gloves and are easier to help get on and off.”
Balance and mobility can also be a challenge for a person living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Perception problems can make it difficult to see ice on sidewalks, or realize that ice is slippery or that snow is not a solid surface. To minimize falls, assist the person by taking smaller steps, keep sidewalks and driveways clear, use handrails or walk arm-in-arm when possible. In addition, use indoor or garage parking or acquire a State-issued Handicapped placard enabling closer access to the door of buildings.
The Alzheimer’s Association has resources for families including care consultations, access to support groups, as well as a 24/7 Helpline for caregivers’ questions. For more information on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.