It’s sad but true that people with dementia are more vulnerable to the cold and more likely to suffer ill health as a result. Cold weather can raise blood pressure, leading to heart attacks and strokes, and winter ailments, particularly flu, can become more severe more quickly, leading to serious respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia. If the person you love isn’t as mobile as they used to be, the challenge can be even greater because your body heats up when you exercise, but not when you sit still for hours on end.

Hypothermia: Know the signs

Normal body temperature is around 37C, hypothermia occurs when it drops below 35C. Symptoms can be subtle include constant shivering, fast breathing, tiredness, cold or pale skin. Hypothermia can also cause other symptoms which are similar to dementia itself, such as confusion and memory loss.

Warning: If their body temperature drops to 32C or below they might stop shivering and pass out. This is a dangerous sign and you’ll need to call an ambulance.

So what can you do to keep the cold at bay? Here’s 6 simple ways to get warm and cosy

1-Layer up

Staying warm is all about layering. Several thin layers will keep you warmer than one thick layer. Start with thermal underwear, tights and socks and pay particular attention to hands, face and feet. If these are very cold, they can potentially trigger dangerous rises in blood pressure. A hat can also be useful since body heat is lost through the head.

2-Little and often

Regular hot drinks can make a big difference. If mobility is an issue why not make a flask of tea (or hot soup) and leave it next to a favourite armchair so they can easily reach it.

3-Dress for bed

Warm clothing is important during the night as well, so make sure they don’t go to bed in a thin nightdress or boxer shorts. Bed socks, and pyjamas will keep them cosy enough to sleep. Go here to see our bestselling bed socks, and here for our cosy fleecy bed jackets.

4-Close the window

Many people still think it’s health to sleep with an open window, even in winter. It isn’t. Leaving a bedroom window open all night means you’ll breathe in cold air which is definitely not good for your health.

5-Consider an electric blanket

All electric blankets these days have to adhere to strict safety standards, so providing it’s fairly new, it should be safe, though if they’ve had it more than three years, it’s best to get it tested. If you’re worried that the person you care about might forget to switch the blanket off, you can buy one which automatically shuts off and responds to temperature changes while you’re asleep. If they forget to switch it on, some blankets also have a ‘ready for bed’ pre-heat button and can be thoroughly warmed up in just five minutes.  Heated fleecy throws are also growing in popularity and affordability and can be used during the day, they’re also economical to use.

6-Stay safe at night

If they often get up at night, the cold and darkness can be disorientating, but there are some simple ways to make their home safer. For example, invest in a few night lights for stairs and hallway or try sticking some inexpensive luminous tape on important items such as light switches, glasses case telephone or even stairs. Go here for more information.

PLUS: 5 ways to get help with heating bills

Vulnerable people should not have to suffer or become ill because they’re too scared to put the heating on. Generally speaking, their main living room should be at least 21C (70F) and the bedroom at least 18C (65F). There is a fair amount of help available for those struggling to pay heating bills, providing you know how to access it. Make sure to explore all the options below

1-Winter Fuel Payment

If they were born on or before 5 August 1953 they could be entitled to between £100- £300 to help with heating bills.  This won’t affect other benefits. Most people who are eligible receive their payment automatically between November and December and everyone should have received it by January 15. If it doesn’t arrive, it isn’t too late to make a claim. You have until March 31 to claim for winter 2017/18. For more info go here.

2-Cold Weather Payment

If temperatures in your area fall below freezing, you might be able to get more money. This additional payment is given to people who are receiving Pension Credit, Income Support or Universal Credit. Go here.

3-Affordable Warmth Grant

If you struggle to keep their home warm and cosy, it might be that they need better insulation or a new boiler you might be entitled to this Government grant, though you will probably have to make a contribution towards the improvement cost. Go here for more information.

4-Warm Home Discount

This entitles you to a one-off discount on your electricity bill from September to March (up to £140). To qualify, you need to be receiving the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit. Go here for more information.

5-Charitable grants

If you are still struggling, you might be able to get a charitable grant. The Energy Saving Trust and Charis Grants provide information and advice on grants and home improvements to make your house warmer and to keep the bills down. Go here and here for more information.

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