If you live in the northern part of the country, you’re accustomed to the cold temperatures, snow and ice that come during the winter, and sometimes spring, months. We may not all like the winter weather, but we know what to expect from November to at least March. For older adults or people living with short-term memory issues, the cold weather can be dangerous.

“Most people know when they start to feel cold. People living with short-term memory loss or other dementia-related illnesses have a more difficult time recognizing the signs of temperature changes and understanding the effect it has on them,” said Salli Bollin, executive director of MemoryLane Care Services.

Without being able to quickly process what they need to do to stay warm, people with memory loss or dementia can be more susceptible to hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, sleepiness, confusion, and slurred speech.

Tips for warmth and safety

Follow these tips from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to keep your family member safe and warm during the cold weather months.

  • Dress in layers and keep extra blankets within reach. Wearing layers of clothing is a must this time of year. It’s easy to remove a sweater if he or she becomes too warm. When going outdoors, make sure he or she has a hat, gloves and scarf. In extreme cold, it only takes a few minutes for frostbite to set in to exposed skin.
  • Use traditional blankets instead of electric blankets. Electric blankets could cause burns. Adults with short-term memory loss or other types of dementia are less sensitive to changes in temperature and may not be aware of becoming too hot under an electric blanket.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases with the use of furnaces and other space heaters. Signs of exposure to the odorless, tasteless gas include dull headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, weakness, and loss of consciousness. Check the heating system once a year and install carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Be cautious with space heaters. While space heaters can provide extra warmth in a room, they pose a fire risk. Use space heaters that automatically turn off when they reach a set temperature or when they tip over.

Precautions during severe weather

With snow predicted to accumulate in the northwest and northeast parts of the state by mid-week, all of us at MemoryLane Care Services urge families and caregivers to plan ahead.

The Ohio Department of Aging, ODA, shares tips for keeping older or ill family members and neighbors safe.

Preparation is key ahead of the arrival of a sizable amount of snow. ODA encourages caregivers to create an emergency kit that will allow an older family member or friend to remain in place for at least three days. The kit should include:

  • A battery-operated radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
  • Food that can be opened and prepared without electricity
  • One gallon of water per person per day
  • A first-aid kit and backup supply of medications
  • Spare glasses, extra hearing aid batteries, and non-powered alternatives to assistive and medical equipment
  • A loud horn, whistle or bell that can be used to help family members or first responders locate the person
  • List of names and phone numbers of people to contact for help
  • A plan for where to go if it is unsafe to remain at home and how to get there safely

If you have any questions about keeping your family member or neighbor safe during cold weather, call us at 419-720-4940.