By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, January 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) – The polar vortex that has enveloped much of the United States this week poses a particular danger to people with Alzheimer's disease and others types of dementia.
"This type of weather can be dangerous for everyone, but even more so for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease, who may have trouble noticing changes in temperature and time or who to call for help, "said Charles Fuschillo Jr., CEO of Alzheimer Foundation of America.
"A few easy steps can help family caregivers a lot to keep their beloved Alzheimer's disease safe, "he added in a press release from the foundation.
It is important that family members and caregivers know the signs of hypothermia. Be attentive to thrilledexhaustion, drowsiness, speech disorders, memory loss and clumsy motor skills, the foundation advised.
Caution must be exercised when using electric heaters. They can pose a fire hazard, especially when used with extension cords or when knocked over. For patients with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, use heaters that turn off automatically when they reach a pre-set temperature or they tip over, said the foundation.
Do not use electric blankets to warm people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia because the blankets could get burned to the skin without them realizing that the blanket is too hot, noted the foundation.
Snow and ice increase the risk of slipping or falling, and people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia may have vision problems that may prevent them from seeing the ice or realizing that the Gateway is slippery. Keep outdoor stairs, driveways and walkways free of snow and ice.
Wandering is a common problem in people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia and is especially dangerous in cold weather. Make sure you have a plan of action in case your loved one goes astray, the foundation said.
This includes the use of a permanent marker or seam identification in their clothing with your contact information. Keep a recent photo and medical information on hand, as well as details about the usual destinations they used to go to, to provide to the police and others who may be facilitating the search. Another option is to join a program that can track your loved one with a GPS.
Know emergency plans when storms or extreme weather can affect home care service. Ask your home care provider to make contingency plans to provide services in such situations, said the foundation.
Make sure the person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia has enough food and water to see it in weather conditions that may limit travel on the roads. They need easy access to flashlights (not candles), blankets and warm clothes. They must also charge their cell phones and tablets in case of power failure.
If your loved one does not live nearby, try to find someone who lives near you and who can watch him before and after a storm. Inform these people about emergency contacts and where to find important medical information, including insurance cards, the foundation added.
Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by having the heating system checked at least once a year and by installing carbon monoxide detectors at each level of the home.
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SOURCE: Alzheimer's Foundation of America, press release, January 28, 2019
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