With the change of seasons, there are often changes in risks, as well as opportunities, for those with Alzheimer's or dementia.
The risk of pneumonia, flu or hypothermia is there during the winter, as is the risk of seasonal affective disorder, which can cause depression because of the ongoing changes in brain chemistries associated with the disease.
In spring, different risks and opportunities exist. As the weather improves, the outdoors become more inviting to stay physically active. Walking, for instance, at least 20 to 30 minutes a day not only has marked physical and mental benefits, but it also can be a way of relieving stress and anxiety.
However, with walking comes the risk of wandering and getting lost, which may increase because the affected individual is comfortable and enjoys the outdoors. Caregivers need to equip their loved ones with some kind of GPS device and/or medic alert identification bracelets for this purpose.
Also, there is a greater risk of falls associated with walking outside, gardening or participating in other activities, so someone with Alzheimer's should never be left alone and should be monitored while he or she is outside.
Because more people are outside, those with Alzheimer's have a chance to stay socially active and to get out of the often isolated environment in the home. However, distractions, such as people yelling, car or train noises or loud music playing, may be confusing and cause stress and anxiety.
It's also important to make sure someone with Alzheimer's drinks enough fluids and doesn't become dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink something at least every two hours.
With special precautions and supervision, someone with Alzheimer's or dementia can benefit from a greater sense of well-being and purpose in nicer weather and be physically, socially and mentally stimulated by the outdoors.