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7 ways to support a person with dementia in cold weather

If you’re supporting somebody living with dementia, here are 7 ways to help make sure they’re kept safe and comfortable during the colder, winter months.

Winter can be a particularly difficult time for somebody living with dementia. The bad weather and colder temperatures can bring specific challenges, and can sometimes make symptoms temporarily worse. What’s more, people with dementia aren’t always able to communicate the fact they’re cold – or they may not even recognise it themselves.

Here are 7 ways to help support somebody living with dementia in cold weather.

1. Make sure the person is dressed appropriately

People with dementia won’t always remember to dress appropriately for colder weather, so it’s important to help make sure they’re wearing the right clothes. Layers are key to keeping warm, and the best materials for maintaining body heat are cotton, wool, or fleecy fibres.

If you’re going outside, remember that a lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, so make sure the person has a hat and scarf on. Gloves are also important for keeping hands warm. If it’s icy or snowy, make sure the person is wearing appropriate footwear, such as non-skid boots. 

2. Keep the room warm

Try to make sure any rooms that are occupied during the day are kept warm – it’s a good idea to aim for between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.

As well as putting the heating on, things like draught-proofing and roof insulation can help maintain a consistent temperature. It’s also worth keeping a blanket within easy reach of a person with dementia, so they can grab it if they’re feeling chilly. At night, a hot water bottle or electric blanket can help keep the bed warm. 

Remember, the government offers a Winter Fuel Payment for people born on or before 5 November 1953, offering between £100 and £300 to help with heating bills.

3. Encourage regular movement

Keeping active can help to boost circulation and help keep someone with dementia warm. It’s a good idea to encourage the person to move around at least once an hour.

If walking is difficult or extreme weather conditions make it hard to go outside, simply getting the person with dementia to move their arms and legs, or wiggling their toes can be helpful.

4. Make the most of natural daylight 

Decreased sunlight can cause someone with dementia to feel increased anxiety, confusion, and even depression during the winter. 

You can help by making sure they’re exposed to natural daylight when possible. Get outside when you can – a quick walk around the block or even just sitting outside in the garden for a few minutes can do wonders.

At home, make sure curtains are open during the day to let in as much light as possible. You could also position the furniture so that the person with dementia is sitting near a window. As natural light starts to fade, make sure lights and lamps are turned on.

5. Stick to a routine

A big change in routine can cause someone with dementia to become confused or agitated.

If you do have to make changes to someone’s routine in winter – for example, changing nap times or daily walks due to limited daylight – try to do them slowly and gradually.

6. Be careful in icy or snowy weather

Perception issues can make it difficult for someone with dementia to see icy patches on a pavement or understand that snow can make a surface extra slippery.

If you’re out for a walk in icy or snowy conditions, make sure you’re supporting the person with dementia carefully. Encourage them to take smaller steps and walk more slowly than usual.

7. Eat and drink regularly

Keeping warm uses up a lot of energy, and a warm house can increase the risk of dehydration. It’s important to make sure someone with dementia is eating regular meals and drinking enough fluid during the winter.

Snacking throughout the day can help keep energy levels up, and hot drinks can help keep them warm. They should avoid drinking alcohol as it makes you feel warm, but actually draws important heat away from vital organs. 

Do you have any other advice for supporting those living with dementia in cold weather? Leave us a comment below.

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12 comments

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I am one of many carers for an elderly lady and she is bothered with cold feet...I got her slippers with sole grips for use on the standaid...they jeep her feet cosy when sitting at the dining table where a draught comes in under and through the door... She also has a lovely blanket she lives.

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10

I bought my wife an electrically heated snuggle from Lakeland which is not only economical but ideal for keeping her warm.

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10

Hi Mary,
having had some recent involvement with an elderly Alzheimer person who is of a thin build with little body fat and has arrived for visits with obviously cold hands & arms which suggested mild hypothermia, I questioned the care worker who confirmed the bedroom was cold and a window was left open all night. the condition of this AZ is obviously deteriorating as autumn arrives with colder temperatures. I was not surprised to hear that continence issues are of increasing concern and note that while sundowning is well known the research interest appears to be more focused on the changes in daylight than on the fall in temperature so little attention is given to the increased confusion ect which I suspect are more to do with hypothermia than researchers realize, here the recent work that found Adipolectin, Leptin and insulin are key players in the rate of metabolism and it follows symptoms of hypothermia, needs full consideration. Terry

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13

Yes; as a student, I will continue reading and searching all about dementia to support those in need when they they it. I am reaching to advance studies in dementia and will benefit from it after my studies about dementia care.
Thanks
Mary Oparaocha.

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8

Choose pyjamas instead of nightdresses as the latter can 'ride up' and expose the lower limbs. Bed socks with gripper soles to prevent slipping if the toilet is needed. A word of caution though about pyjamas: make sure they're not too long so that feet do not get caught up when walking especially if using stairs.

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9

Visit your GP
Charge your phone in case need ambulance call
Report any body changing during the course of cold winter.

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13

My Mum always has cold feet and hands so I wrap a hot water bottle in a light weight blanket and put it under her feet when she is sitiing in a chair and she also has another hot water bottle on her knee. It is the only thing that works to get her feet and hands warm, even with many layers of clothes and socks.

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12

Games and puzzles....grandchildren visiting...

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8

Useful too in keeping warm are bed socks, a hot water bottle & covering the head

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8

Make sure that coats hats and gloves are available that are appropriate for that season, so that they pick the appropriate type of coat . Reduce the choice available if you think that would help them to make the correct choice of outdoor wear.

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11

This is a great tip... Decisions are hard to make... So limit them... Simple but effective and means less stress

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10

You can ask neighbours to keep an eye out that the person is dressed appropriately, this will help keep the person safe and could also inform whether they need extra help.

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