It is winter . . . really winter. . . with temperatures in the teens and 20s, heavy gloves, warm soup, and a genuine reluctance to be outside if we are not skating or skiing. Still, most of us know how to navigate and even enjoy a crisp cold day.
But what about a person who has a dementia? Do you know the dangers of cold weather for older adults and individuals with dementia?
During cold weather, you may find folks
Living in cold homes without realizing the danger of being cold
Venturing outside without warm clothing or protection from wet weather
Experiencing low body temperatures as a result of taking medications or drinking alcohol
Falling on ice and becoming disoriented in snow falls
The overall concern is hypothermia, which is a condition in which the body temperature is dangerously low. Hypothermia can cause confusion, disorientation, problems with communication and behavior, and physical impairment. Hypothermia may lead to death.
Caregivers can help by being sure that older adults and individuals with dementia stay in warm environments, eat well to ensure healthy body “insulation,” and avoid activities that might lead to hypothermia.
We can also help individuals with a dementia enjoy lovely winter days. As always, care giving involves sharing positive experiences with an extra layer of safety. For our cold crisp days, let’s help our loved ones with cozy wool scarves, bowls of warm soups . . . and hand-in-hand ventures to see beautiful snow falls.
For a brief overview of ways to avoid and treat hypothermia, see the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly article, Hypothermia.