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Dealing with Dementia: Summertime Q and A

Guest Contributor: Teri Lonon

Memory Cafe Directory note: This is the first in a series of Q&A that helps provide valuable support in a very simple format. Enjoy!

Q How do I keep my loved one hydrated during the hotter months?

First of all, remember that the signal of thirst is probably disabled within their brain. Secondly, by the time any of us feel thirsty, we may already be dehydrated!

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Routine and familiar items can help. A special water bottle or thermos kept by their side is recommended. Some on the market now even measure the amount that has been consumed. Between meals is the best time for this, because you want to make sure they are getting enough nutrition at meals.

If they balk at drinking water, try adding some flavoring. There are sugar-free choices that are cost efficient and usually the sweeter the better for your loved one’s palate. Frozen popsicles are also a fun alternative. Go outside with them and both of you can enjoy a cool treat and reminisce.

You will notice a common theme in my recommendations. Do it WITH them. When your loved one sees something as an everyday action of all adults, it is easier to comply. In extreme cases, frozen pops and drinks containing extra electrolytes are available.

Q In what ways can I protect my loved one from harmful sun exposure?

I am going to start with my mantra, include YOURSELF in the practices of sun protection. This helps to normalize the activity for your loved ones and remember to take care of yourself!

You may already know if they are averse to putting lotions on, as opposed to using sprays. Ask them to HELP YOU with your skin coverage as well. Be sure to pick up hypoallergenic products if needed. Some of them have a scent that can take them back to beach trips in the past! A little aromatherapy never hurts.

Of course, we now have tops, swimsuits and hats that can protect from UV exposure. If they don’t have a favorite hat already, let them pick one out. The best scenario would be two hats that they like, so that a choice can be made each time.

Sunglasses fit into this category also. Maybe you could keep one pair in the car, one in the house, etc. because they are not going to be able to keep track of them. Finding shady places to sit or picnic (or park) is pretty obvious for us all. Always keep extra towels in your vehicle, great for hot seats and leak protection.

QMy loved one always puts on winter clothing, even when it is scorching outside. What should I do?

Dressing to suit the season, or current weather is a cognitive ability that is quickly lost with most forms of dementia. My first suggestion is to make out-of-season items unavailable to your loved one, if possible. If they independently choose their daily “ensembles”, then ensure that all of the choices are comfortable (weather and size-wise.)

If you are assisting with dressing, give them 2 choices for tops and bottoms. They then have independent preferences and either one will be appropriate. Make sure to compliment and praise the choices. Honey goes further than vinegar with everyone.

Now let’s talk shoes. Summery flip-flops, crocs and most slip-ons are a trip hazard. Even if they have not tripped or fallen yet, rest assured that it will not take much to distract them from their path or lose balance.

Sneakers, with cotton socks, are safest for footwear. If they are in a warmer climate, sandals with mostly closed toes and definitely a heel and buckle are important.

Footwear is not a fashion concern, it is now a safety concern. Once again, cost efficient shoes are available in many styles and colors.

Q What activities make it feel like summer, when my loved one can’t safely do what they did in past summers?

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I’m glad you asked! Get creative and adapt. Have a luau with leis and frozen fruit drinks. Maybe add some Hawaiian music for the final touch. How about a shallow baby pool on the porch to put their feet into, while they sort or clean seashells (available at dollar stores) for a decorating or craft project?

Beach ball toss, or kick, inside or out can be fun. Or maybe, they would like to gather up old photos and pick out the summer ones for a special summer album.

Last, but not least, ice-cream! Go to a parlor to enjoy some together or make your own at home. There are many makers and churns on the market. What a fun weekly tradition to start! They can even help gather or add ingredients.

I hope these answers and suggestions can help make this caregiving summer one with quality of life for your loved one and yourself!

Teri Saunders Lonon TRS CDP

Teri Lonon on Memory Cafe Directory
Teri Lonon

Teri received her BS in Therapeutic Recreation. She worked 15 years in facilities with memory care residents and their families before coming to Elder Options. She has been there almost 3 years and is currently a member of the Caregiver Training and Support Team.

Elder Options is the Area Agency on Aging in 16 counties in North Central Florida. During the pandemic, Elder Options has continued it’s mission to serve seniors by working remotely and online.

The office is based in Gainesville, Florida and provides the Elder Helpline 1-800-262-2243 as well as resources and community outreach. More information and registration for classes can be found on the Elder Options website.

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