The Weather and Dementia

Weather affects most of us in one way or another. Perhaps we feel energetic when it’s sunny and sluggish on overcast days. And no one likes being stuck in a hot car or a freezing movie theater. Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect the brain’s control centers, resulting in increased sensitivity to heat and cold.

A 2018 research study followed 3,300 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the United States, France, and Canada. The results demonstrated that cognitive (thinking) ability changed depending on the season. It appeared to be higher in the fall and summer, when days are longer and sunnier. People experienced more episodes of sundowning (an escalation in anger, irritation, and confusion occurring late afternoon or evening) during winter and early spring. They also had more sleep-pattern disturbances and depression during shorter, darker days.

 

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Watch the Weather

  • Heat exposure can lead to hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), headaches, nausea, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and behavioral changes such as increased anxiety and agitation.
  • Cold exposure can lead to hypothermia (below-average body temperature) and symptoms such as shivering, increased confusion, pallor, and lethargy.
  • Cold and rainy weather can cause people to stay indoors, reducing opportunities for social interaction. Be on the alert for signs of isolation and depression.

 

Take Precautions

  • Ensure dress is appropriate for the weather. Keep indoor temperatures consistently warm or cool enough for comfort.
  • Encourage regular activity and opportunities for social interaction.
  • Provide opportunities for regular and adequate eating and drinking. Hydration is essential.
  • People who tend to wander are at increased risk in the heat or cold. Additional monitoring may be indicated.

 

Resources