Winter poses potential risk for those with dementia

Colder temperatures, snow and ice and early darkness can be challenging and stressful for the more than 11 million people caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer's or dementia.

According to Melissa Tucker, Director of Family Services for the Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter, "When cold weather sets in, it's especially important to be aware of how memory loss can impact people's decision making.

"Be aware that a person living with memory loss may not think to put on gloves or a hat, so the care partner will need to keep an eye on this and help the person to dress appropriately for the weather," Tucker said. "Wandering is something else to be aware of - wandering is especially dangerous in cold weather."

Tips for wandering prevention can be found at or by calling the 24/7 helpline 1-800-272-3900.

By preparing in advance, caregivers can make a big difference in keeping their loved one safe.

The Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter offers some safety tips for navigating the winter season as an Alzheimer's or dementia caregiver, such as:

Be prepared

Winter storms can be dangerous. Check weather conditions regularly and have emergency plans in place.

Bundle up

Help the person living with Alzheimer's dress warmly for winter weather conditions by wearing dry, loose-fitting layers and covering exposed skin.

Prevent slips

Assume all surfaces are slick and take safety measures. Assist the person living with dementia by wearing sturdy shoes and walking slowly when outside.

Buddy up

Ask family, friends and neighbors for help with shoveling, grocery shopping or other errands. An Alzheimer's Association survey says 84% of caregivers would like more support providing care for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, especially from their family.

Today, there are more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease, including 230,000 in Illinois. Additionally, more than 11 million family members and friends are serving as caregivers, including 381,000 in Illinois.

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