If you're looking after a loved one with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, you need to understand the threats posed by different kinds of extreme weather so you can provide the proper monitoring and preventative care. Here are some things to bear in mind as things get hotter, colder, wetter, or stormier for your loved one.
Extreme heat can prove deadly to anyone, but dementia sufferers are at special risk. That's because they may not perceive just how hot their surroundings are, leading them to dress too heavily or stay out in the sun too long and suffer heatstroke. They may not recognize thirst signals as readily as they once did, causing them to become dehydrated. It's also worth noting that dementia commonly strikes older individuals who are already prone to homeostatic imbalance, a heat-triggered condition that contributes to diabetes and heart failure.
The most important thing you can do for your afflicted loved one during the summer months is monitor his fluid intake closely and insist on his drinking plenty of water each day. Remove caffeinated tea and soda from the refrigerator, since these beverages can actually accelerate dehydration, and keep a full pitcher of water in there instead. Limit your loved one's outdoor time and always accompany him so you can detect any signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Last but not least, see to it that hats and sunscreen are always in use when outdoors.
Cold weather can cause serious problems for dementia patients. Hypothermia is a common danger for individuals who may not longer dress appropriately for the surrounding temperature or even recognize that they feel unusually cold. At the same time, a dementia sufferer's lifelong habit of turning down the heat to save money in cold weather may still be intact. You might find your loved one sitting in a noticeably cool room, displaying hypothermia symptoms such as labored walking, slurred speech, and shivering without any awareness of a problem.
Keep a close eye on the thermostat, checking it regularly to see whether your loved one has turned down to an unsafe level. Even low 60s (Fahrenheit) may prove too low to prevent mild hypothermia in dementia patients, so set the dial to 68 degrees and keep it there. Make sure your loved one is wearing several layers of light clothing, allowing for both insulation and quick adjustments to accommodate temperature changes.
Wet or Stormy Conditions
Coordination and balance problems are a hallmark of Alzheimer's dementia. This means that a rainy day can quickly become a tragic day due to serious slips and falls on wet surfaces, especially if that water turns to ice. Keep your loved one entertained with pleasant indoor activities rather than risking a trip outdoors in foul weather.
Storms can be deeply upsetting to dementia patients. Not only do thunderbolts and lightning strikes present a source of emotional stress, but the need to evacuate familiar surroundings during a dangerous storm may seem an unthinkable prospect to them, to the point that they may actually refuse to leave. Your primary job in these circumstances is to remain as calm and cheerful as possible -- the less anxiety you broadcast, the less your loved one will feel. Make sure you have an emergency plan all worked out in advance so you can respond to a disaster smoothly and efficiently.
Extreme weather safety is just as important to a dementia sufferer as memory care or help with personal hygiene. Stay informed and prepared for different weather conditions, and you can give these individuals a sunnier quality of life all year round!Share