Winter Complicates Care

Readers who live in warm, sunny places might never realize how weather complicates care in cold, snowy climates. Here in the Poconos, January temperatures can sink into the low teens and snow is a constant threat. This year has been mild, but last year I think we paid our plowman enough to put his kids through Harvard.

I used to love snow, and that’s part of why I live here. But my mom hates cold weather and she is terrified of slipping. Since we live in the woods, access to doctors is limited when our roads freeze. We’ve also lost electricity three or four times this year when the power lines were knocked down by falling frozen branches.

Dementia patients don’t do well when these unexpected problems occur. Twice I had to pack up and take Mom to a nearby inn for the night because we had no heat. Changing her routine makes life very hard for her because that’s all she has left to help her make sense of the world. Fortunately, the Inn at Jim Thorpe helped us get a discounted room right away so I could keep her comfortable and warm and reduce the amount of chaos around her. But I know there are caregivers out there who’ve faced far greater challenges.

Patients bound to wheelchairs have transportation issues when there’s snow and ice on the ground. People who use walkers can’t move well in heavy precipitation. And what about the extra clothes we have to pile on and keep track of for our loved one? Gloves, boots, and scarves give us a new laundry list of things we must remember for them.

Despite it’s troublesome aspects, I still think snow is beautiful. But I’d never say that about a hurricane. Caring for my mom has made me think about the people who tried to save the sick and elderly during Hurricane Katrina. You wonder how anyone with dementia could have survived the threat of those rising waters. Given the choice of helping my mom through a flood or a blizzard, I’d take a foot of snow any day. And I sincerely hope that our comrades in hurricane zones never face another human disaster like Katrina.


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