Even though seasonal changes affect the lifestyle and health of pretty much everyone, the impact is much stronger on elderly people, particularly those living with Alzheimer’s. This is because seniors living with Alzheimer’s are not only used to set routines but their body’s natural clock also takes longer to adjust to seasonal changes. Here are some tips on how you can manage seasons Alzheimer’s care.
According to research published on PLOS Medicine, seasons do have a clinically significant association with cognition in older adults. This is particularly evident in winters where lack of sunlight and decrease in outdoor activities affects their routine, mood, and sleep cycles.
Winter is probably the trickiest season. In addition to the safety risks that come with lower temperatures and snowfall, there may also be exacerbation in sundowning due to the lack of sunlight; causing restlessness and confusion for those living with Alzheimer’s. Another challenge is the reduction in social interaction which can cause depression.
Though, there are a few things that can be done by caregivers to help their loved ones cope with the changing weather. For instance, ensuring that they are dressed correctly for colder weather and slippery conditions is important. Making a checklist ahead of winters and buying non-skid boots, scarves, hats, and bright colored outerwear is a good start.
Additionally, lack of sunlight can disrupt normal sleep patterns and increase anxiety, so small changes such as fitting special bulbs that simulate sunlight, keeping curtains open during daylight hours, ensuring that the living space is well-lit, and installing timers for their lights to turn on before it’s dark can help.
Hypothermia risk is higher for people living with Alzheimer’s because it may be difficult for them to detect temperature changes. Maintaining a minimum temperature 20 Celsius and encouraging them to wear warm clothes and socks indoor can help keep them warm. It is also vital to install heating mechanisms that don’t involve chords to prevent any accidents.
Alzheimer’s also affects perception. Hence, when there is snow and ice on the ground, seniors living with Alzheimer’s may find it hard to judge if a walkway is slippery or not. So in addition to shoveling snow away, whenever possible, accompanying them outdoor can significantly reduce the risk of fall-related physical injuries.
Also, it’s common knowledge that people living with Alzheimer’s are likely to wander. However, during winter the danger associated with wandering increases significantly due to lower temperatures, snowfall, and poor visibility. In such situations, it’s always helpful to have a GPS tracker which can help you locate them and ensure that they’re safe. Some other ways to prevent wandering are shared here.
With the onset of spring, more sunlight and warmer temperatures provide an opportunity to seniors to go outdoors, soak up sun and resume physical activity. According to Dr. Norman Foster, the director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care Imaging and Research at the University of Utah, this social interaction and physical activity can be very beneficial for them.
Simple outdoor activities such as going for a walk, reading in a park, or simply stepping out to enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch can have numerous physical and mental benefits. These activities can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and even reduce the rate of cognitive decline.
However, it is important to ensure that the elderly living with Alzheimer’s are not left accompanied. Also, to help them enjoy the trip, it’s good to choose a place where there are minimal distractions and loud noises. Some more tips for spring season can be found here.
While summer is a great time to be out and about, it also gets quite hot and humid, during certain times of the day. So it’s important for the caregivers to ensure that their loved ones are hydrated and comfortable during summer.
This is particularly relevant in the case where these individuals are also suffering from other chronic medical conditions. As they are most likely on medications, due to these conditions, which impact the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, caregivers can take some measures to help them cope with the rising summer temperatures.
In addition to checking if the air-conditioning is functioning properly, it’s always good to ensure that your loved ones are hydrated, are wearing lightweight clothing, are not taking hot baths, and most importantly are going outside during cooler early morning or evening hours.
These small changes can help your loved ones manage seasons Alzheimer’s care and deal with seasonal changes in a better way as well as enjoy what different seasons have to offer.