In winter and especially with the current cold weather warning, it is important for all of us to stay warm. People with dementia can be especially at risk when the temperature drops below 8C. There are many reasons for this. As a result of communication difficulties they may be unable to explain that they are cold or they may, in fact, not recognise it themselves. They might also struggle to operate the heating or they may not remember that they need to put extra clothes on to stay warm.
Cold temperatures can also increase confusion – so if you ask someone if they feel cold, you may not get an accurate response and you may have to physically check their temperature. You can do this with a thermometer, or, with consent, gently place your hand down the back of their neck. Remember, some people may have cold hands and feet, but their core temperature can be fine, so don’t rely on just checking hands and feet.
During cold weather spells like the one we’re currently experiencing try and arrange for friends, neighbours or relatives to provide extra checks on a person with dementia.
Tips for keeping warm
Wearing lots of thin layers is key to keeping warm in cold weather. The best materials for maintaining body heat are cotton, wool or fleecy fibres. As a lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, if you’re indoors and you’re feeling chilly then you should wear a hat and scarf.
Make sure that you are well stocked with a good supply of any relevant medication and food. On the subject of food, it is also important to eat regular meals, have hot drinks and also snack to maintain energy levels throughout the day – keeping warm uses up a lot of energy. You should also avoid drinking alcohol as it makes you feel warm (because blood vessels in the skin expand) but actually draws important heat away from vital organs.
Try to Keep your main living room at 18–21°C (64–70°F) and the rest of the house at 16°C (61°F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep. Then when In bed, use either a hot water bottle or an electric blanket.
Keep Active to boost your circulation. Move around at least once an hour. Even light exercise will help keep you warm. When you do sit down, put your feet up as it’s coldest nearest the ground. Simply moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes are helpful if walking is difficult
For further information see the Governments ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ booklet https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/653267/Keep_Warm_Keep_Well_2017.pdf