Power of Positivity: Positive Thinking & Self Help Community › Forums › Health › How The Change of Season Affects Dementia Patients
shirawingetParticipant@shirawingetOctober 24, 2019 at 11:30 am #3167
While many people may mark Fall by watching the leaves change color, if you’re a caregiver you’re likely thinking about that fact that you’re about to enter one of the toughest seasons for dementia patients. As the days shorten, the symptoms of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia increase. This is not exclusive to just these conditions-there are several other mental health conditions which seem to peak this time of year. The Alzheimer’s Association shares, “The chance of getting diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that oftentimes precludes dementia, was 31% higher in the spring and winter months.”
Here are some of the most common side effects associated with this time of year:
Sundowning occurs during the latter part of the day, as the sun is setting and earned its name because of the increased confusion and agitation that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients experience during these hours. When the sunset begins to fall earlier in the day, these symptoms can become more pronounced.
Sundowning is marked by a cluster of symptoms that includes agitation, anxiety, restlessness, yelling, pacing, mood swings and even hallucinations, all occurring within a short period of time– usually over the course of two or three hours. Many patients have a “trigger” that sets off these episodes-something that evokes a memory or a fear that starts the anxiety and other symptoms to follow. Maintaining a consistent daily routine for the patient is one way to lessen the severity of sundowning.
Wandering is a concern for all dementia patients. Dementia patients have an increase in disorientation, which is the cause for excessive wandering. During the winter months, it’s not uncommon for wandering to increase. This can be concerning for many reasons, one of which is the fact that those with dementia cannot accurately gauge the temperature. If your loved one is wandering and gets outside, they are at a high risk of hypothermia.
Wandering is also risky because this is how many dementia patients end up getting lost. In most cases, they cannot find their way back to their home and can inadvertently put themselves in dangerous situations. It can be especially stressful for caregivers when this happens.
Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects people of all ages but can really negatively impact dementia patients. Seasonal affective disorder causes an increase in depression because of reduced sunlight hours.
Seasonal affective disorder has many of the same overlapping symptoms as Alzheimer’s and dementia, so it’s hard to tell sometimes which symptoms your loved one may be exhibiting. SAD symptoms are most prevalent in the winter months and can include increased confusion, isolation, and memory problems. If your loved one is feeling more despair than usual at this time of the year, it’s important to talk to their doctor and differentiate between the two conditions so they can get proper treatment.
Increased confusion with holiday celebrations
With the holidays comes holiday parties and visitors. This increase in activity, change in routine and increased exposure to other people that they may not see regularly can cause anxiety and confusion. It’s important when planning for the holidays to limit family gatherings to small numbers of people or arrange for family members to visit at different times, so they won’t overwhelm your loved one. Try to plan visits to happen in the early part of the day if your loved one is experiencing sundowning symptoms.
Every season has its own challenges when you’re dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, however knowing the specific issues surrounding the winter months and how it impacts cognitive functioning can help you better prepare so that your whole family can have a little peace of mind going into the season.
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