As temperatures drop below freezing, caregivers responsible for dementia patients must be vigilant in watching after those prone to wandering. Seniors with dementia often have a difficult time making appropriate decisions about what clothes to wear in changing seasons and if they wander off and become lost, can suffer from exposure. If a loved-one lives near water, falling through thin ice can also be a hazard.
To help cope with wandering, try placing locks higher on outside doors than at eye level but never leave someone with dementia locked in a home alone. Full length mirrors placed on doors have been found to stop Alzheimer’s or other dementia patients from continuing. Stop signs can also trigger an ingrained memory to halt. Alarms on doors and GPS systems found in activity trackers or tucked inside a shoe are also useful in preventing dangerous wandering.
By placing picture signs on bathroom and bedroom doors, wandering loved-ones can be cued to find their way. Caregivers should offer small, frequent meals to ensure night-time hunger does not result in misdirected wandering and any pain should assessed and treated. Distraction is often a simple way to prevent people with dementia from wandering; use a gentle, calm voice and avoid confrontation. Ask questions about where he or she is going and try to redirect wandering efforts by offering a snack before they leave or mention that a favourite show might be on television.
In the colder months, space heaters and electric blankets may sound inviting for older adults but they can pose a serious risk of burns, especially in those with dementia. In some cases, older adults with dementia may find it difficult to assess what is a reasonable temperature. Caregivers may want to consider a programmable thermostat kept out of sight to regulate indoor temperatures. Many new models can connect to wifi and be monitored and adjusted through a tablet or smartphone app.
More cold weather tips for those living with dementia can be found on the Alzheimer Society of Ontario website: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/on/Living-with-dementia/Day-to-day-living/Staying-active/Cold-weather-tips .