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In this very cold weather, it’s imperative for caretakers and families of Alzheimer’s patients to be cautious and observant.

Leilani Pelletier, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York, says in the progression of the disease, people with dementia will inexplicably leave familiar surroundings, potentially endangering themselves in the cold weather.

“Dementia of any form – Alzheimer’s or any form – disorients a person,” she said. “And for those who are dealing with this it’s not that they’re necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s just very hard to predict how someone with dementia is going to be triggered or start thinking about something.”

“There’s sometimes an urge to go – an urge to go to work, an urge to go take care of something that a person with dementia can’t necessarily identify and they just feel the need to go,” Pelletier said. “It happens with most people with dementia.”

There are several things families or caregivers can do to protect those with Alzheimer’s from wandering from home like getting motion censors for doors from the hardware store to know when they open or moving locks out of reach.

But most importantly, Pelletier says to listen.

“More important is to understand why they want to go,” she said. “What’s motivating them to get out the door? If someone starts fidgeting or talking about going to work or seeing the grandkids or something along those lines, that is a sign to you that the person is having an urge to go and you have to address it.”

“Using logic and reason and explaining why that’s not a good idea is not helpful,” Pelletier said. “The idea is that that person’s expressing an emotion – a feeling – and that’s what you have to address. Give that person something to nurture, something to do, something to love that will channel that energy. Use that energy instead of fighting and saying why that’s not practical take the essence of what that energy is and do something creative with it.”

Other ways to help are by sticking to a routine so those with dementia don’t get overwhelmed or over-stimulated.

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