Getting through winter with dementia

Getting through winter with dementia

Saturday 27th October 2018

Twice a year, we all get to be time travellers.

Not quite like Marty McFly in Back To The Future, (although I would like to visit 1955), but this weekend we get to relive an hour.

And it's for this reason that I ask you to spare a thought for those caring for an individual living with dementia.

Dementia causes visuospatial problems which become worse during the darker days and nights, leading to disorientation and frustration.

Those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can have depressive episodes due to the lack of daylight; especially during winter.

Similarly, people living with sun downing (a condition that occurs towards the end of the day) can become agitated, distressed or irritated and longer evenings means this distress is lengthened.

Carers of dementia patients often report changes in behaviour during the winter months when we have longer evenings; making it a stressful time for everyone.

To make things a bit easier, here are eight nuggets to help you get through the winter:

1. Increase your Vitamin D intake. Make the most of natural sunlight by going outside as often as possible. This helps to boost the mood, reduce stress and ease tension. If it's not possible to get out, consider taking Vitamin D supplements instead.

2. Increase daytime activities, which will promote sleep at night time. If possible, don't carry out strenuous activities for at least four hours before bedtime.

3. Limit daytime napping.

4. Eat a larger, cooked meal at lunchtime. This will give your body time to digest it, rather than trying to sleep on a full stomach.

5. Try to maintain a routine to limit stress and anxiety.

6. As the natural light fades, put the lights on. Brightly lit rooms with daylight lamps work well, but dim them as the evening goes on.

7. Evenings need to be relaxing. Winding down time will promote wellbeing and tiredness. Try listening to some relaxing music or watch a programme quietly, and have a hot bedtime drink.

8. Dementia can be confusing, so ensure those living with it are surrounded by objects they cherish, such as their favourite blanket or a soft toy.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotional and exhausting. As a carer, you need to take care of yourself, so don't be afraid to ask for help; whether that's from family, friends/neighbours, or your GP or healthcare professionals.

I'd urge you not to struggle on alone.

Contacting a homecare provider such as Your Care can take away some of the strain, giving you time to relax, catch up on sleep and get some well-earned rest.

If you have any advice you'd like to add to my eight nuggets, get in touch and let me know.