Staying Healthy in the Winter Months

 In Caregiver Tips

By: Kari Burch, OTD, OTR/L

Caregiving can be isolating, and even more so when it gets cold out and you are stuck inside!  Sometimes it is hard to take a person with dementia outdoors – if they are complaining that it is too cold, or you are worried that the ground may be too slippery to get safely to the car and back. So, we all end up staying cooped up inside and can start to get a little bit stir-crazy.  Here are a few ideas for indoor activities to beat boredom during the winter months, ideas for helping with the confusion that can happen with changes in day light, and ways take care of yourself as a caregiver as well.

Winter Activities for the Person with Dementia

  • Look at photos. If you have photo albums, consider looking at one picture at a time. It is easier for the person with dementia to focus if there is not too much to look at all at once. If you do not have your photos in an album yet, you can make your own simple photo album by pasting one picture per page and adding a simple caption. This can be fun to make and also fun to enjoy later.
  • Listen to music. Music is powerful! Familiar songs can put someone in a great mood. Try having the person listen to music through headphones – it is easier to focus on the music if there is not also background noise for the brain to have to ‘filter out.’
  • Indoor walking – such as an indoor track at the YMCA or mall walking.
  • Try a puzzle. The dollar store has great 24-piece puzzles that make finding the correct piece easier.
  • Adult coloring books. Try it together! Look for designs that aren’t too tiny or complicated. Sometimes simple children’s coloring books are fun too.

Ways to Combat Confusion

  • When it is dark out earlier, sometimes the person with dementia might get more confused. Try to help the person stay active throughout the day and provide a simple task to do if they start seeming confused – like folding towels, or putting coins in a piggy bank. Staying focused on an activity helps distract from any upset or confusion.
  • Try keeping the lights on until it is time to start winding down for bedtime, and keep the curtains or blinds closed so that it isn’t obvious that it is already dark outside. Try to have lights on during the day, and off (other than a nightlight or two) at night. This will help the body’s natural light/dark and sleep/wake cycles stay as consistent as possible.
  • Try not to let the person nap too much during the day. Staying awake during the day will make it more likely for the person to sleep at night.

Take Care Of Yourself as a Caregiver

  • Schedule a time to take a break – and put it on your calendar – at least once a week if not more. Have a family member or friend stay with the person with dementia while you do something to recharge your caregiving battery.
  • During breaks, some caregivers want to stay home and nap undisturbed, while others want to go out and do something active. Whatever makes you happy – schedule time to do that for yourself regularly.
  • Try deep breathing or meditation. Slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth can go a long way in a moment of frustration.