Written by Active Minds on Friday the 15th of January 2016.
Winter is difficult for everyone; between shorter days, chilly temperatures, and icy pavements, it’s probably the toughest season there is. For people living with dementia however, these problems are compounded by confusion, physical difficulties, and perception problems, making winter even harder than ever. Make sure your loved one is as prepared for the colder weather as possible with our guide to making winter easier for people with dementia.
People with dementia might find it hard to remember to dress up warm in the winter months so carers will need to make sure their loved ones are appropriately covered up if they’re heading outside. If your loved one is only in the early stages of dementia and still lives by themselves, you can also leave gloves, hats, and scarves hanging next to the front door as a visual reminder to wrap up warm.
People with dementia tend to be elderly, more likely to experience physical difficulties, or to suffer from perception problems that prevent them from identifying unsafe ground, so snowfalls and icy pavements can be extra hazardous. To avoid any nasty falls, make sure your loved one is wearing footwear with appropriate grip and try to venture outside in the daytime only. If you do go outside in the darker hours, take a torch to illuminate pathways and stay close to offer support if necessary.
Winter’s shorter days can cause lots of problems for people living with dementia. Low lighting can increase the likelihood of visual problems and hallucinations while shadows and reflections in windows can be confusing. Make sure curtains are closed and lights are turned on as soon as it gets dark outside to avoid distress. It can be a good idea to invest in a timer to ensure lights come on at a certain time or motion sensor-activated light for outdoor areas.
People with dementia can also be at risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which the decreased daylight and bad weather can increase someone’s risk of depression and anxiety. If you suspect your loved one might be experiencing SAD, there are a few things you can try. Encourage them to get out and about in the daylight hours, if they can. The exposure to sunlight will be beneficial while the exercise will help them to sleep better and feel more restful during the long evenings. You can also buy special bulbs that mimic daylight to make evenings seem shorter, or encourage your loved one to take part in dementia activities such as puzzles or games to pass the time.