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. Below are tips to avoid dangerous situations to help keep your loved ones safe this winter:
- Be prepared for a winter storm before it hits. Ensure you and your family has 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 keep handy in case of power failure.
- If you don’t live near your loved one, is there someone who lives nearby that can check up on them before and after the storm. Inform them of emergency contacts and where important medical information can be found, such as their insurance card.
- 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.
- 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 a 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.
- 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.
- Increased risk of slips and falls with snow and ice covering the ground. Persons living with Alzheimer’s or a 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 over use the salt as this can cause traction issues.
- The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder, comes from the decreased sunlight and shorter days in 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.
- Wandering in the winter can be extremely dangerous for your loved one as they may become lost when not always dressed appropriately. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s or related dementia does wander off, make sure you have a plan of action. Use a permanent marker or sew identification into their clothes with your contact information. Keep a recent photo and medical information on hand to share with police and other authorities who will be helping you search for your loved one. 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.
For more tips to keep your loved one living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias safe this winter, contact the Arden Courts Memory Care Community nearest you or call our general information line at 888-478-2410.