Seasonal change and dementia symptoms are definitely linked. My mother’s condition remained steady through the warm summer months. But I see a shift in her behavior now that autumn has brought some chill to our evenings. Sometimes Mom can barely move.
It’s not surprising that changing seasons affect the behavior of people with #dementia. Squirrels in our forest speed up their scavenging when fall arrives. Hungry bears start rooting through our trash. The first red and gold maple leaves make me check the oil tank. The Pocono region — where Mom lives — has a beautiful fall foliage season. Though autumn leaves bring tremendous beauty, they are accompanied by big symptom shifts. #Caregivers need to be aware of new needs.
Seasonal change and dementia symptoms
As soon as the weather turns cool, my mother’s joints seem to freeze up. I crank up the heater and drape her in blankets. These things help but there’s no treatment that fully relieves her stiffness. Lately she’s been pinching us really hard while we’re changing her clothes. She’s incapable of loosening her grip once she has a hold on something — and that something is usually me! Chilly mornings make her teeth chatter, too. I have to dress her in layers even if it will reach 80 degrees later in the day.
I always thought Mom’s need for heat was driven by her peculiar body thermostat. But this week I came across some research that found a link between body temperature and the progression of dementia. A Canadian scientific team has been examining how dementia develops in transgenic mice [mice that carry Alzheimer’s genes]. Their evidence suggests that dementia symptoms get worse in those who have lower body temperatures. The research team, led by Dr. Frederic Calon, discovered that “symptoms of Alzheimer’s were mitigated when the transgenic mice were exposed to warmer temperatures.” Dr. Calon believes that this could lead to new treatment options, since “body temperature can be increased through physical activity, diet, drugs” or raising room temperatures.
I’ve often rolled my eyes at my mom’s compulsive need for warmth. Her desire for a blanket in mid-summer seems totally irrational. But after reviewing this research, I see that her craving for heat could be an instinctive effort to heal herself. The autumn leaves always make me pause for reflection and, now, so does this research.