Seasonal effects of dementia

We’ve suddenly found ourselves in the middle of autumn; the clocks have gone back and the days are much shorter, leaving us with less sunlight during the daytime.

The seasonal changes combined with the increased amount of darkness can cause irritability and confusion for someone living with dementia. This phenomenon is known as ‘sundowning’ and can have a real impact on our residents’ day-to-day lives.

Understanding the affects that the changing seasons can have on mood and behaviour can help to manage the symptoms of sundowning during the colder, winter months.

Encourage exercise

Keeping active will help you to live well with dementia, as it helps to boost circulation and keep you warm, which is very much needed when the temperatures start to fall.

If you or a loved one are not able to go out for a walk, Dementia UK have some great exercises that you can perform from the comfort of your sofa, with videos to guide you through some basic exercises.

Eat and drink regularly

A healthy, balanced diet is particularly important throughout the virus, cold, pneumonia and severe flu season. It is especially important to ensure your loved ones are eating enough and monitor that they are eating a nutritional diet.

Staying warm uses up energy, and a warm house can increase the risk of dehydration, so drinking plenty of fluids is essential.

Snacking throughout the day can help keep energy levels up, and hot drinks can help keep you warm.

Make sure to check that loved ones are taking their medications and maintaining a regimen of appropriate vitamins and supplements as this can help to strengthen them against winter viruses.

Make the most of daylight

Decreased sunlight can cause someone with dementia to feel increased anxiety, confusion, and even depression during the colder months. Is is therefore particularly important to ensure that your relative gets as much daylight exposure as possible.

Here at Churchfields we encourage our residents to layer up and sit in the garden for a short spell, or we take them for a walk around the village where they can have a chat with neighbours and enjoy our beautiful countryside location.

If you loved one is not able to venture outside, be sure to let as much daylight into the home as possible, by lifting blinds and keeping curtains open.

Position your loved one near the window and once the evening starts to draw in make sure the lamps are turned on.

It’s always a good idea to put lights on a timer so the room is always well lit.

Maintain a routine

The importance of routine and familiarity to someone living with dementia is profound, so changing a routine can cause them to become agitated or confused.

If you need to alter someone’s routine then it is best to make these changes gradually to help avoid difficult behaviour and a negative reaction.

Add extra layers

Those living with dementia won’t necessarily know how to dress appropriately in the colder temperatures. Not only do they need to be wearing the right clothing, but adding additional layers is key to staying warm.

Most of our heat is lost through our head and neck, so if you’re taking your loved one out, make sure they’re wearing a hat and a scarf. Appropriate footwear is also important, along with a pair of gloves.

Let us help

If you or a loved one is worried about the oncoming winter weather and requires a little helping hand, then our friendly team can help.

To find out more about Churchfields, call us on 01865 8881440 or email

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