HELENA — According to the Alzheimer's Association, every 65 seconds a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Winter can pose additional safety risks for those people.
Andrea Rankin helps care for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease that can seriously impact memory and cognitive function.
“Everybody has concerns about slipping and falling, but what complicates people who have Alzheimer's is their depth perception, their ability to see a curb and to judge the distance to be able to step on that curb or cracks on a sidewalk. They don't have that judgment for walking,” said Rankin.
It isn't just icy sidewalks that concern Rankin and others who care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. More care is needed in the winter to ensure these patients are protected from the elements.
According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, caregivers need to take extra precautions to ensure patients prone to wandering away are not impacted by exposure.
“Another huge concern with someone with Alzheimer's, in terms of the cold weather, they start to lose their judgment about when it is cold outside. They don't put it together. So that, if it's really cold, you need to dress for the weather. So maybe they go out there without a jacket, or without a hat, or mittens, or scarf, without winter boots, without the proper socks on, especially here in Montana,” said Rankin.
Rankin suggests placing notes around the house or even putting clothes near the door to develop a safe routine in case those, like her mother, walk outside by themselves.
“Honestly, someone who has Alzheimer's, the only way they’re really going to be absolutely safe is if they have someone with them 24/7 and that is not possible. So, our job is to just try and reduce the risk factors for them as much as possible," she said.