Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Offers Winter Weather Safety Tips For Families Whose Loved Ones Are Dealing With Alzheimer’s

With extreme cold and winter storms bringing dangerously low temperatures, major snowfall and hazardous conditions to states across the US, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering tips to help families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s keep their loved one safe.

“Frigid temperatures, snow and ice can pose dangers for everyone, but especially so for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President and CEO. “Family caregivers can make a big difference by taking a few small steps to keep their loved one safe.”

AFA suggests the following safety tips for family caregivers:

*Hypothermia is a concern for everyone in a winter storm, but persons living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia can be at an even greater risk. Some individuals living with a dementia-related illness may find it difficult to detect temperature and weather changes. To help keep that person safe, make sure you know the signs of hypothermia. Look for shivering, exhaustion, sleepiness, slurred speech, memory loss and clumsy motor skills.

*Electric space heaters can pose a fire risk especially when used with extension cords or if they get knocked over. To keep individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia safe use space heaters that automatically turn off when they reach a set temperature or tip over.

*An electric blanket could burn the skin of those living with dementia without them even realizing the blanket is too hot. While most people can tell when they start to get too warm from an electric blanket, those with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia may be less sensitive to changes in temperature. To keep the person safe, it is better to remove all electric blankets from their home.

*Risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is increased with the use of the furnace and other heating methods used to keep your house warm. The odorless, tasteless gas can quickly build up to dangerous levels without your knowledge. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a dull headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, weakness, blurred vision, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness. Check the heating system at least once a year and install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the home.

*Increased risk of slips and falls with snow and ice covering the ground. Persons living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia may also have vision issues that can make it harder to see ice or realize that a walkway is slippery. Keep all stairs, walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice by shoveling often and using rock salt. However, make sure to not over use the salt as this can cause traction issues.

*Wandering in the winter can be extremely dangerous for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as they may become lost when not always dressed appropriately. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s or related dementia does wander off, make sure you have a plan of action. Use a permanent marker or sew identification into their clothes with your contact information. Keep a recent photo and medical information on hand to share with police and other authorities who will be helping you search for them. You can also look into joining a program that can help you track your loved one with GPS.

*If a storm is approaching, ensure that the person has enough food and water to last until the storm passes and road conditions improve. Be mindful of dehydration, which can cause delirium and death. Make sure their cell phones and tablets are charged in case the power goes out. Flashlights (not candles), blankets and other warm clothing should also be easily accessible in case of power failure. If you don’t live near your loved one, see if there is someone who lives nearby that can check up on them before and after the storm. Inform them of emergency contacts and where important medical information can be found, such as their insurance card.

*Storms or extreme weather may impact home care service.  Inquire with your loved one’s home care provider about what the backup or contingency plans are to deliver services.

*Be prepared for emergencies by having the emergency contact numbers for your local police department, fire department and utility providers.